Sunday 15 December 2019

Two dead, 14 injured in Isil attack on children's charity

Afghan police officers take position during gun fire after the blast in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Photos: Reuters
Afghan police officers take position during gun fire after the blast in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Photos: Reuters

Dean Gray in Jalalabad

Isil has claimed responsibility for an attack on an office of British charity Save the Children in Afghanistan's eastern city of Jalalabad yesterday, which left two dead and 14 injured.

The group's news agency Amaq said the operation involved a car bomb and three other attacks that targeted British, Swedish, and Afghani government institutions in Jalalabad, without providing further details.

After blowing up a car outside the charity's compound, the attackers used a rocket propelled grenade to storm the complex.

"I can hear two attackers... They are looking for us," an employee hiding inside the building told a friend in a WhatsApp message. "Pray for us... inform the security forces."

Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the regional Nangarhar governor, said the attack started at 9.10am local time, shortly after staff would have arrived at the office.

"A group of armed men then entered the compound. So far 11 wounded people have been brought to hospitals," Khogyani added.

Mohammad Amin, who was inside the compound when the attackers launched the raid, said from his hospital bed that he heard "a big blast".

"We ran for cover and I saw a gunman hitting the main gate with an RPG [rocket propelled grenade] to enter the compound. I jumped out of the window," Amin said.

A Save the Children spokesman said: "Our primary concern is for the safety and security of our staff. We are awaiting further information and cannot comment further at this time."

Afghan TV news channels showed a thick plume of black smoke rising above the compound and what appears to be at least one vehicle on fire outside the office.

Another witness said: "It might be a complex attack. I am hearing gun fire from inside Save the Children compound."

The attack on Save the Children was the latest violence to strike a foreign aid group in war-torn Afghanistan.

The International Committee of the Red Cross announced in October it would "drastically" reduce its presence in the country after seven employees were killed in attacks last year.

The decision by the charity, which has been working in Afghanistan for over three decades, underlined the growing dangers for aid workers, who have increasingly become casualties of a surge in militant violence in recent years.

Yesterday's assault comes days after Taliban gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in the Afghan capital, killing at least 22 people, mostly foreigners.

Insurgents armed with Kalashnikovs and suicide vests attacked the landmark Intercontinental Hotel, going from room to room searching for foreigners during the more than 12-hour ordeal.

Irish Independent

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