KABUL — Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen attacked a guesthouse housing foreign and local non-governmental workers working for a land-mine removal NGO in western Kabul, killing at least two people Friday.
In what has become a hallmark militant attack, suicide bombers blasted their way into a foreign guesthouse compound in western Kabul, then started shooting. The guesthouse was home to a U.S.-based NGO called Roots of Peace.
Dozens of security vehicles including Kabul’s Rapid Reaction Force quickly converged on the scene and surrounded the compound. A number of residents managed to escape and were escorted to safety by police.
Interior Ministry officials said about 20 foreign and local workers escaped the attack, which began with a bomb explosion. Three Americans, a Peruvian, a Malaysian, an Australian, and one person of African origin were among the survivors.
Mohammad Sharif Osmani, country director for Roots of Peace, said up to six people were pinned down inside the guesthouse during the four-hour gunfight that followed the bombing.
“The guest house is under attack, and there are around three or four suicide bombers and some of them have been killed, but I think it shows there is still someone alive," said Osmani
It was the third Taliban attack in eight days in the capital, and the second on buildings housing foreigners. On March 20, militants shot and killed nine people, including two children, in the Kabul Serena hotel.
March 25, they stormed an election office, killing four before the militants themselves were killed.
Osmani could not confirm the nationalities of those still left in the compound. He said two Afghan guards and one driver were wounded in the assault.
The Taliban has vowed to disrupt the April 5 presidential elections, and has claimed responsibility for attacks against police stations, election offices and campaign activities across the country.
Jandad Spinghar, head of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, says he is concerned by the increasing violence.
“It shows that the Taliban is trying to prove what they said in their last statement, that they will disrupt the election and attack. It’s affecting our work as well; some of our observers might resign, and it will be difficult to replace them in such a short time,” said Spinghar.
Security officials say they have measures in place to protect the roughly 7,000 polling stations around the country on April 5, election day. International forces are on standby and will provide air logistics.