Taliban militants wearing suicide vests and police uniforms stormed a guesthouse used by UN staff in the heart of Kabul early yesterday, killing nine people — including six UN staff. Three attackers were also killed.
It was the biggest in a series of attacks intended to undermine the Nov. 7 presidential runoff.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the early morning assaults, which also included rocket attacks at the presidential palace and the city’s main luxury hotel. He said three militants with suicide vests, grenades and machine guns carried out the guesthouse assault.
The attack on the guesthouse sent people running and screaming outside, with some jumping out upper-story windows to escape a fire that broke out. One US man said he held off the assailants with a Kalashnikov rifle until guests were able to escape.
One rocket struck the “outer limit” of the presidential palace but caused no casualties, presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada said. Two more rockets slammed into the grounds of the Serena Hotel, which is favored by many foreigners.
One failed to explode but filled the hotel lobby with smoke, forcing guests and employees to flee to the basement, said an Afghan witness who asked that his name not be used for security reasons.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack as “an inhuman act” and called on the army and police to strengthen security around all international institutions.
An official with the UN election team said that the guesthouse was home to the largest concentration of UN election workers in the city. The official, who was not authorized to speak to the press and spoke anonymously, did not give a specific number of election workers staying there, but said it was around 20.
Interior Ministry officials said the attackers were wearing old-style police uniforms, which are available in markets.
UN spokesman Adrian Edwards said six UN staff were killed and nine other UN employees were wounded in the assault, which began about dawn in the Shar-e-Naw area of the city. One of the six UN dead was an American, the US embassy said.
Afghan police and UN officials said three attackers, two security guards and an Afghan civilian were also killed.
The chief of the UN mission in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, said the attack “will not deter the UN from continuing all its work” in the country.
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