May 8, 2019
ISLAMABAD — Afghan officials say a car bomb-and-gun attack has targeted a U.S.-funded international relief organization in Kabul, causing casualties.
Rescue workers transported at least nine injured to city hospitals Wednesday, but there were no immediate reports of death.
The Interior Ministry said the non-profit group Counterpart International, which is a partner of the U.S. Agency for International Development, was under attack in the upscale Shahri Naw part of the capital city.
Afghan police and military commandos quickly surrounded the building and engaged the assailants.
Officials said 150 staff members were rescued, while efforts to secure others were underway.
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 Nasrat Rahimi, an interior ministry spokesman.
There was no immediate response to the attack from the U.S.-financed Counterpart International.The aid group 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,” says Counterpart in its mission statement posted on its website.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid accused the aid group of conducting “harmful” activities inside Afghanistan.”Counterpart implemented a dangerous program termed ‘Angel’ aimed at promoting open inter-mixing between men and women,” Mujahid alleged in a statement sent to reporters.He accuses the aid group of employing “40-50 foreign advisors” workingin 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 “deliberated targeting of the civilian aid organization” by the insurgents.
The Taliban continues 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 comes as a sixth round of peace talks between U.S. and Taliban negotiators is under way in Doha, Qatar, to try to bring an end to the conflict in Afghanistan.The latest round of discussions between the two sides began a week ago, but neither side has reported any significant progress.