One dead in attack on Afghan Red Cross office says officials

Afghan policemen keep watch at the ICRC compound in Jalalabad province, May 29, 2013. (Reuters)

Militants launched a suicide and gun attack on a Red Cross office in Jalalabad city, east Afghanistan, on Wednesday killing at least one guard, officials said.

The assault was the latest in a series of high profile, coordinated attacks as insurgents pile pressure on the U.S.-backed government ahead of the withdrawal of 100,000 NATO combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year.

“A suicide attacker first detonated himself at the gate of the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) compound,” Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the interior ministry, said.

“Then we believe more than three attackers infiltrated the office, we have managed to evacuate six foreign nationals from the building. We are not sure if or how many are left inside.”

The ICRC confirmed that “an incident” had taken place but gave no further details.

Provincial government spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai told AFP that one Afghan guard has been killed in the attack, for which there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The attack came on the same day that Afghan security forces killed six militants who stormed the Panjshir provincial governor’s office in a pre-dawn assault in one of the country’s most stable areas.

The Taliban launched their annual “spring offensive” last month, vowing to use suicide blasts to inflict maximum casualties and destabilize President Hamid Karzai’s regime.

The strikes followed a major assault on Kabul on Friday, when the Taliban launched a similar suicide and gun attack on an international compound in the city centre and triggered a battle that lasted several hours.

All four militants, one policeman and two civilians died in that incident, which targeted the International Organization for Migration.

Jalalabad is situated on the key route from the Pakistan border regions -- where many militants are based -- to the capital Kabul, and the city has been targeted by repeated attacks in recent years.

Seven suicide bombers attacked a police base in Jalalabad in March, killing five officers.

In February, a bomber rammed an explosives-laden car into the gates of the walled compound of the National Directorate of Security spy agency and detonated his bombs, killing two intelligence workers.

Nine Taliban suicide attackers also targeted the NATO base at Jalalabad airport in early December, killing five people and wounding several foreign troops.

Hardline Taliban Islamists have waged a 12-year insurgency against the Afghan government since being overthrown in a U.S.-led invasion for harboring al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The effectiveness of Afghan security forces is crucial to the government’s ability to defeat the Taliban insurgency as NATO troops withdraw by the end of 2014.

The national police, army and special forces are being trained up by the international coalition, but there are widespread fears that they will not be able to impose security across the war-torn country.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:40 - GMT 06:40