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Taliban Calls Deadly Kabul Cafe Attack 'Retaliation' for Earlier Coalition Strike

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for an attack on an upscale cafe that killed 21 people -- mostly Western civilians -- in one of Kabul's most secure districts.

A Taliban statement Saturday said the attack Friday evening was in retaliation for a coalition airstrike earlier in the week that killed a number of Afghan civilians in an eastern province. The statement also said militants picked the Lebanese restaurant popular with "high-ranking foreigners" and which served alcohol.

The White House on Saturday condemned the attack, saying there is "no possible justification" for it. A statement described the victims as "innocent civilians...working every day to help the Afghan people achieve a better future."

The dead include the top envoy of the International Monetary Fund for Afghanistan, the senior United Nations political affairs officer and two other U.N. staffers, and two Americans with the American University in Afghanistan.

Police say a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the restaurant, and that two gunmen then stormed into the establishment and sprayed the diners with gunfire. The gunmen themselves were killed by police.

The New York Times reported the Afghan Interior Ministry, which oversees Afghan police, suspended the commander and the intelligence officer in charge of the district and placed them under investigation.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement extending his condolences to the families of the U.N. staffers killed. Mr. Ban called the attack "another sad moment for the United Nations....and a violation of international humanitarian law."

The U.N. Security Council stressed the need to bring the "perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice."

A number of embassies and foreign organizations have offices in the area of the attack, and many Afghan officials live nearby.

A January 4 Taliban attack at the gateway to a large NATO base in central Kabul did not inflict any casualties. The same day, a suicide bomber struck a coalition base in Nangahar province, killing one NATO soldier. Five militants were killed trying to storm the base after the attack.

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