A wounded Afghan man is brought on a stretcher to an Italian aid organization's hospital, as Afghan security forces battled an ongoing attack by Taliban militants on a compound housing an international aid organisation in Kabul on May 8, 2019.
A wounded Afghan man is brought on a stretcher to an Italian aid organization's hospital, as Afghan security forces battled an ongoing attack by Taliban militants on a compound housing an international aid organisation in Kabul on May 8, 2019.

ISLAMABAD - Samiullah Jalalzai of VOA's Afghan service contributed to this report.

Officials in Afghanistan say a Taliban car bomb-and-gun attack against a U.S.-funded international relief organization Wednesday killed at least five people, including a police guard, and wounded 24 others.

A man injured in a blast leaves a hospital after t
A man injured in a blast leaves a hospital after treatment in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 8, 2019.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said insurgents targeted the nonprofit group Counterpart International, which is a partner of the U.S. Agency for International Development, in the upscale Shahri Naw area of the capital.

The Afghan forces killed all five assailants in a gunfight that lasted nearly six hours. Rahimi would not say whether staff members of the aid group were among the casualties.

Shahri Naw, Kabul
Shahri Naw, Kabul

Ann Hudock, president and chief executive of Counterpart International, told VOA's Afghan service Wednesday, "There is still a lot of information that we don't know, including whether we were specifically targeted. But we do know there was a bomb blast and that our building was attacked by militants." She said her staff was all accounted for and safe.  
 
"What I can say is that the senseless violence that happened today has no place in a civilized world. It has nothing to do with Islam.  For this to happen in Ramadan makes it particularly egregious," she said. 

Afghan policemen keep watch a during gunmen attack
Afghan policemen keep watch a during gunmen attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 8, 2019.

Rahimi said police and military commandos quickly surrounded the building and fought the assailants, rescuing close to 200 people during the siege. 

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

The insurgent raid began just before noon with a car bomb explosion at the entrance gate before several gunmen stormed the office building, said Rahimi. 
 
The U.S.-funded aid organization has been operating in Afghanistan since 2005 on civic engagement projects, according to its website. 
 
"In all our programs, we bring marginalized people into civic life, supporting their ability to influence decisions that affect their lives," Counterpart said in its mission statement on its website. 

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid accused the aid group of conducting "harmful" activities inside Afghanistan.

In this photo taken on Feb. 6, 2019, the Twitter p
FILE -The Twitter page of Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid is pictured on a computer monitor in the newsroom at Maiwand TV station in Kabul, Feb. 6, 2019.

"Counterpart implemented a dangerous program termed 'Angel' aimed at promoting open intermixing between men and women," Mujahid alleged in a statement sent to reporters.

He accused the aid group of employing "40-50 foreign advisers" working in various aspects of brutality, oppression, terror, anti-Islamic ideology and promotion of Western culture. 

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass strongly condemned the Taliban attack.

"The targeted organization helps local communities, trains journalists and supports the Afghan people. For this, it is the target of senseless violence. Thanks to Afghan Security Forces for rapid response," Bass said. 
 
The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan also denounced as deplorable the "deliberate targeting of the civilian aid organization" by the insurgents.?

WATCH: Taliban Attack on NGO in Afghanistan Kills Five 

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The Taliban continue to carry out deadly attacks, despite cease-fire appeals by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the United States, during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began Monday. 
 
The insurgent group has justified its violent campaign, saying under Islamic traditions, "the blessed month of Ramadan is prime opportunity for jihad [holy war]." 
 
The latest violence came as a sixth round of peace talks between U.S. and Taliban negotiators is under way in Doha, Qatar, to try to end the conflict in Afghanistan. The latest round of discussions began a week ago, but neither side has reported significant progress.