By Michael E. Sanchez
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
KABUL, Afghanistan- Explosions and gunfire in the center of the Afghan capital have left at least 17 people dead, officials say.
The attack took place in an area of hotels and guesthouses which are popular with foreigners. Up to nine Indians, a Frenchman and an Italian were killed. Three gunman and two policeman died in a gun battle that lasted several hours. The Taliban said they were behind the attack.
Afghan president Hamid Karzai condemned the violence. India called it “barbaric”. The attack comes as NATO and Afghan forces continue Operation Moshtarak to tackle the Taliban in Helmand province.
Martin Patience of the BBC in Kabul says the first blast on Friday happened close to the Kabul City Center shopping area and the Safi Landmark Hotel. The Park Residence Hotel, popular with foreigners, was also close to the main blast.
SM Krishna, India’s Foreign Minister said up to nine Indians were dead, including government officials. The Minister said :” These barbaric attacks are a matter of deep concern and are clearly aimed against the people of India and the people of Afghanistan…”These are the handiwork of those who are desperate to undermine the friendship between India and Afghanistan.”
At least 30 people are reported to have been injured in the attacks. Condemning the attacks, NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen saying in a statement: “Those who committed them made it clear, in their choice of targets that their aim is to reverse the progress that Afghans are making,”
Two smaller explosions were reported following the main blast and security forces fought with gunman for several hours after sealing off the area. Sirens blared across the city and announcements warned people to stay indoors. Areas around diplomatic missions and government ministries were closed to traffic.
Operation Moshtark continues in Helmand in the south, whose aim is to drive the Taliban from the areas around Nad Ali and Marjah.
Friday’s attack is also the Taliban’s first major raid since the arrest of key leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Pakistan this month. He was said to be the second in command and to have run the Taliban’s leadership council and controlled their finances.
For more information, please see:
BBC News – Afghanistan Captial Kabul Hit by Suicide Attack– 26 February 2010
SCPR.ORG- Taliban Claims Responsibility for Kabul Attacks– 26 February 2010
The New York Times- Guesthouses Used By Foreigners In Kabul Hit in Deadly Attacks-26 February