5 killed in Taliban attack on US organization in Kabul


An attack by Taliban militants on the headquarters of the United States non-governmental organization Counterpart International in Kabul ended more than five hours after the first explosion, killing five people, according to the latest toll.

The attack comes as US and Taliban representatives continue talks in Qatar aimed at ending a nearly 18-year-old conflict. Negotiations on the issue of setting a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan have stalled.

"The terrorist attack on the International Assistance Agency has ended, all the attackers have been killed," Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.

Four civilians, including a woman and a policeman, were killed and 24 wounded, including a foreigner whose nationality he has not yet known, he said.

"We are in close contact with our security team on the ground" to see if members of the organization have been killed or wounded, the US-based information agency of the US-based Countartart International told AFP.

A powerful explosion shook Wednesday morning in the center of Kabul and police first identified it in an area with many shops, NGO headquarters and a UN building. The building, which was targeted by a car bomb, belongs to the American organization and is adjacent to the prosecutor's office.

"We heard a loud explosion, all our windows crashed," Akbar Khan, a prosecutor in his office at the time of the blast, told AFP. "We got out of the building quickly and heard shots and grenades exploding."

Rahimi said four "attackers" armed and wearing explosive vests entered the organization's headquarters before police surrounded the area.

Afghan special forces then intervened to clear the building of the attackers, and several explosions were heard throughout the city during the operation.

Rahimi added that more than 200 employees of the American organization had been rescued and a car bomb had been found in the area.

The Taliban adopted the attack. "The attack is aimed at hitting Counterpart International," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote in a tweet on Twitter, stressing that the NGO was involved in "harmful" activities and was linked to the US Agency for International Development Assistance (USAID).

In a second tweet, Zabihullah Mujahid explained that "Counterpart carries out a dangerous program called" Engel "aimed at encouraging mixing between women and men.

The NGO, founded in 1965 by Australian actress Betty Bryant Silverstein and a priest of the Maronite Order, funded by the US Agency for International Development Assistance and with activities around the world, says it has been implementing civil society support programs in Afghanistan since 2005.

US Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass condemned the Taliban attack against a US NGO that "is helping local communities, rehabilitating journalists and supporting the Afghan people." "That's why she is being targeted by mad violence," he wrote in a tweet.

The United Nations mission in Afghanistan condemned the attack, saying it was "a regrettable attack against civilians helping Afghans during Ramadan."

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, whose government was not involved in the negotiations with the Taliban, called in a speech after the Grand Loya Jirga meeting with thousands of delegates from across the country last week for the Taliban to cease fire on the first day of Ramadan.

The call was renewed Monday in a video recording with the start of Ramadan.

But the fighting continues in the country.

On Sunday, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on a police station in a northern state that killed at least 13 policemen and wounded 55, including civilians.



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