DEADLY 10-HOUR SIEGE AT AFGHANISTAN CHAR­ITY

Isil gun­men kill four at Save the Chil­dren of­fice

Edmonton Journal - - NP - RAHIM FAIEZ

KABUL • Gun­men stormed the of­fices of Save the Chil­dren in eastern Afghanistan on Wed­nes­day, killing four peo­ple and trig­ger­ing a shootout with po­lice that lasted al­most 10 hours, provin­cial of­fi­cials and the or­ga­ni­za­tion said.

The Is­lamic State group claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack in Jalal­abad, the cap­i­tal of Nan­garhar prov­ince. Among the four killed were two staffers of the NGO, a se­cu­rity guard who also worked for Save the Chil­dren and an Afghan army sol­dier.

The as­sault started with a sui­cide bomber who det­o­nated his ex­plo­sives vest at the provin­cial of­fices of Save the Chil­dren, said At­tahul­lah Kh­ogyani, spokesman for the provin­cial gover­nor.

Se­cu­rity forces killed four other at­tack­ers, he said, adding that at least 26 peo­ple, in­clud­ing three mem­bers of the Afghan se­cu­rity forces, were wounded.

After eight hours the fight­ing sub­sided and Kh­ogyani said he ini­tially thought it was over but then the shoot­ing picked up again.

Two hours later, it was fi­nally over, he said.

Carolyn Miles, pres­i­dent of Save the Chil­dren, ex­pressed “pro­found sad­ness” at the killing of the NGO’s three em­ploy­ees in Jalal­abad. She said four wounded staffers were re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal treat­ment.

“We are shocked and ap­palled at the vi­o­lence, car­ried out against our staff in Afghanistan who are ded­i­cated hu­man­i­tar­i­ans, com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the lives and well-be­ing of mil­lions of chil­dren across the coun­try,” Miles said.

She added that the or­ga­ni­za­tion had been work­ing in Afghanistan since 1976, “pro­vid­ing life-sav­ing health, ed­u­ca­tion, nu­tri­tion and child pro­tec­tion pro­grams that have helped mil­lions of chil­dren.” Save the Chil­dren said it had tem­porar­ily sus­pended its work across Afghanistan.

In a state­ment on its Aa­maq me­dia arm, the Is­lamic State group said one of its sui­cide bombers with an ex­plo­sive-laden ve­hi­cle and a sub­se­quent raid tar­geted “Bri­tish and Swedish foun­da­tions and Afghan gov­ern­ment in­sti­tutes.”

Both the Tal­iban and ISIL are ac­tive in eastern Nan­garhar prov­ince.

Kh­ogyani said the se­cu­rity forces had man­aged to res­cue 46 peo­ple, mostly em­ploy­ees of Save the Chil­dren, as the at­tack un­folded.

U.S. State Depart­ment spokes­woman Heather Nauert de­nounced the as­sault, call­ing it “heart­break­ing” and of­fered “deep­est con­do­lences to the vic­tims and fam­i­lies.”

UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res was “ap­palled and deeply sad­dened” by the at­tack on the Save the Chil­dren of­fice, UN spokesman Stephane Du­jar­ric said.

“Hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tions pro­vide life-sav­ing as­sis­tance to the most vul­ner­a­ble men, women and chil­dren in Afghanistan,” Du­jar­ric told re­porters at UN head­quar­ters in New York. “Aid work­ers, and their premises and as­sets, should never be a tar­get.”

Mon­ica Zanarelli, the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross’ head of del­e­ga­tion in Afghanistan, said that an at­tack against an or­ga­ni­za­tion that helps chil­dren is “out­ra­geous.”

“In­creased vi­o­lence has made op­er­at­ing in Afghanistan dif­fi­cult for many or­ga­ni­za­tions,” she said.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s chief for South Asia, Bi­raj Pat­naik, ex­pressed sol­i­dar­ity with Save the Chil­dren.

“Bomb­ing and shoot­ing peo­ple who are work­ing for no other rea­son than to help im­prove the lives of young Afghans is a cow­ardly and de­spi­ca­ble act,” Pat­naik said.

The at­tack fol­lowed a deadly week­end siege of the In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Ho­tel in the cap­i­tal, Kabul, in which 22 peo­ple were killed, in­clud­ing 14 for­eign­ers. Mul­ti­ple U.S. cit­i­zens were killed and in­jured in the Tal­iban’s 13-hour siege of the ho­tel, the State Depart­ment said Tues­day. No ex­act fig­ures were im­me­di­ately avail­able for ei­ther the U.S. fa­tal­i­ties or in­juries.

Eleven of the 14 for­eign­ers had been pre­vi­ously iden­ti­fied as work­ing for the pri­vate Afghan air­line KamAir. Dur­ing a cer­e­mony at Kabul’s air­port on Wed­nes­day, the bod­ies of seven Ukrainian cit­i­zens were handed over to of­fi­cials for trans­fer to Ukraine.

Mir­wais Sa­madi, head of the con­sulate depart­ment at Afghanistan’s For­eign Min­istry, said the Kabul at­tack was launched by “ter­ror­ists” and their sup­port­ers.

“Some of our coun­try­men were mar­tyred and some for­eign na­tion­als also were killed,” he said. “We ex­press our con­do­lences and thoughts to the vic­tims and fam­i­lies.”

IN­CREASED VI­O­LENCE HAS MADE OP­ER­AT­ING IN AFGHANISTAN DIF­FI­CULT FOR MANY OR­GA­NI­ZA­TIONS.

NOORUL­LAH SHIRZADA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Afghan se­cu­rity forces in­spect the site of an at­tack on Bri­tish char­ity Save the Chil­dren’s of­fice on Wed­nes­day, after Is­lamic State gun­men blasted their way into the Bri­tish aid group’s com­pound in the eastern city of Jalal­abad, killing at least four peo­ple and wound­ing dozens. Save the Chil­dren has sus­pended op­er­a­tions across Afghanistan.

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