Five Taliban gunmen stormed a US charity group’s guesthouse in Kabul Friday, killing two civilians and wounding four guards before being killed by security forces.
The Taliban militants barricaded themselves inside the guesthouse run by San Francisco-based NGO group Roots of Peace and managed to hold four foreigners hostage.
Dozens of security vehicles, including Kabul’s Rapid Reaction Force, quickly arrived at the scene and surrounded the walled compound.
The siege of the compound lasted several hours, with gunfire and explosions heard throughout the city before Afghan security forces succeeded in killing the insurgents.
"The fight is over. The five attackers are dead," Qadam Shah Shaheem, commander of 111 Military Corps Kabul, told Reuters.
Many of the residents managed to escape, while more than a dozen foreign nationals, including many children, were escorted to safety by the security forces.
Around 20 foreign and local workers escaped the attack, said Interior Ministry officials. Three Americans, a Peruvian, a Malaysian, an Australian and one African were among the survivors.
Gen. Ayoub Salangi, deputy Afghan interior minister, confirmed the attack was carried out by five suicide bombers.
One of the militants detonated his car laden with explosives to allow his comrades to gain entry into the guesthouse compound. A small girl was killed and a guard was injured during the explosion, said Salangi.
The other three militants once inside the building detonated explosives attached to their bodies, while one of them was killed during clashes with security forces
Kabul Police Chief Mohammad Zaher said the attack first started around 4 p.m. local time.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the assault. The foreign guesthouse was the target, they said, which they alleged was also used as a church.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the guesthouse “was actually a church used to convert Muslims to Christianity.”
The US Embassy in Kabul released a statement condemning the attack and highlighting the work done by Roots of Peace with US aid funding in Afghanistan.
According to the statement, the $40 million worth of funding had helped Afghan farmers increase crop yields for various fruits like pomegranates.
The latest assault is the fourth significant attack this year in the Afghan capital targeting foreigners or places where foreigners congregate.
It comes just a week before the Afghan presidential election, which is being held to choose a successor to outgoing President, who has completed his term in office.
The Taliban has vowed to derail the ballot process. Its leaders have ordered the fighters to disrupt the elections by attacking polling staff, voters and security forces.
Cnsequently violence has spiraled in recent weeks in Afghanistan, with near daily explosions and gunfights. It is a terrifying reminder to voters and foreigners alike of the kind of attacks the Taliban is capable of unleashing in the heavily fortified capital.
The April 5 election will be a crucial test for foreign donors who are wary of bankrolling the government after majority of the US-led NATO troops based in Afghanistan withdraw by the end of 2014.
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