Militants in Afghanistan have killed at least six foreign U.N. workers and three Afghans during an attack on an international guesthouse in the capital, Kabul. One American is among those dead. Police are also reporting that a rocket attack on an international hotel in Kabul forced some 100 guests into a bunker.
Local police and U.N. officials say the pre-dawn militant attack targeted a guest house for foreigners, located in a shopping district of Kabul. Speaking to VOA by telephone from the Afghan capital, U.N. spokesman Aleem Siddique gave details, shortly after the incident.
"A U.N.-approved guest house came under attack early this morning by unknown number of armed attackers," Siddique said. "There was an explosion, followed by gunshots. The attackers entered the guest house. The residents made for an escape."
Afghan police say at least three gunmen, wearing suicide vests, took part in the deadly raid and fought pitched battles with security forces before they either detonated their explosives or were shot dead.
Witnesses say the bodies of three suicide bombers could be seen lying inside the compound.
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack, calling it a "first step" to disrupt next month's presidential runoff election in Afghanistan.
Speaking at a news conference in Kabul, the chief of U.N mission in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, said that the world organization has served the Afghan nation for more than 50 years. He says he considers Wednesday's act of violence not only an attack against the United Nations, but an attack against the Afghan people.
"For the U.N. in Afghanistan this is of course a very dark day and I strongly condemn the attack this morning against a U.N guesthouse here in Kabul for which the Taliban has claimed the responsibility," Eide said. "This attack will not, I repeat, not deter the U.N from continuing its work to contribute to reconstruct a war-torn country and to build a better future for the Afghan people."
Shortly after the shooting, militants fired rockets at the international Serena luxury hotel. Officials say more than 100 people were rushed to an underground bunker, following the attack. There were no casualties.
The violence comes a day after a series of bomb attacks killed eight American soldiers and an Afghan civilian working with them in southern Afghanistan. The latest deaths make October's death count the highest monthly death toll since the American-led forces launched the anti-Taliban offensive in 2001.