Four United Nations workers and an International Monetary Fund official were among more than a dozen people killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a Lebanese restaurant in Afghanistan’s capital.
The Taverna du Liban in Kabul targeted in yesterday’s attack was popular with foreign nationals, Afghan officials and business people, the city’s police chief Mohammad Zahir Zahir said in a phone interview. At least 13 people, including foreigners, were killed and four wounded, he said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in an e-mailed statement that it targeted Germans and other foreign nationals dining in the restaurant.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack “in the strongest terms,” according to a statement released by the world body confirming the four deaths. “Targeted attacks against civilians are completely unacceptable and are in flagrant breach of international humanitarian law,” according to the UN statement.
The attack happened around 7:25 p.m. in the Wazir Akbar Khan district of the city, which houses embassies, foreign non-governmental organizations and the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, headquarters.
A single heavy explosion followed gunfire between Afghan security forces and militants. Two other militants were shot dead in the vicinity of the restaurant, said Zahir.
The explosion shattered windows of Norway’s and other nearby embassies in the same block as the restaurant, said Gul Agha, an eyewitness, in a phone interview.
The UN said in its statement that at least 14 people were killed in the attack. The Associated Press, citing Zahir, said the death toll had climbed to 16.
The IMF said its resident representative in Afghanistan, Wabel Abdallah, was killed in the attack. Abdallah, 60, had served in the position since 2008, the fund said in a statement.
“This is tragic news, and we at the fund are all devastated,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in the statement.
A U.K. national was also among those killed, the London Evening Standard reported citing the British Foreign Office without identifying the victim.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington yesterday that while the U.S. was still gathering information on the attack, all American embassy personnel were accounted for.
The attack took place as Afghan President Hamid Karzai weighs signing a bilateral security accord with the U.S. setting a reduced presence of foreign troops. President Barack Obama’s administration says the deal must be completed quickly if the U.S. is to keep any forces in the country after most combat troops pull out at the end of the year.
The bombing was the third in the Afghan capital in less than two weeks. On Jan. 4, Taliban forces detonated a bomb near Camp Eagers, an American military base in the heart of Kabul, resulting in no casualties. On Jan. 12, a Taliban bomber on a bicycle blew himself up near an Afghan police convoy, wounding six policemen.
“This violence is unacceptable and must stop immediately,” Jan Kubis, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said in a separate statement condemning the attacks.