Five UN staff killed in suicide attack on Kabul guesthouse

Authorities urged to step up protection after 'dark day' for agency in Afghanistan

The Taliban insurgency struck at the heart of Kabul yesterday as a squad of gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed a guesthouse used by UN staff, killing five of them and signalling a clear intent to wreck the new round of presidential voting.

The raid, which appeared to be coordinated with rocket attacks on another hotel used by foreigners, may not derail the new poll completely, but will almost certainly curtail the support the UN is able to provide. It could also prompt aid agencies and NGOs to scale back their operations or leave the country altogether.

"This is a very dark day for the UN in Afghanistan," Kai Eide, the UN head of mission in Afghanistan, said. There was no question of the UN ducking its support of the Afghan elections, he added, but there would be a review of security measures, with the organisation's security directorate expected to meet today.

The UN is understood to have asked the Ministry of Interior, which it depends on for security, to step up protection measures at all UN sites in Kabul. Whether the Ministry is actually capable of boosting security any further – Kabul is already dotted with checkpoints and blast barriers – is debatable.

A Taliban spokesman said the group had warned of attacks on anyone helping with the election. "This is our first attack," Zabiullah Mujahid said.

The UN provides enormous logistical support to Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission, runs the anti-fraud watchdog that invalidated over a million fake ballots, and mentors Afghan election officials. "Campaigning against the UN is going to fundamentally alter the situation in Afghanistan," a security analyst in Kabul said. "Now the UN has become a target because of the election. Provincial level activity is going to be significantly curtailed."

Although the UN has been targeted in Afghanistan before, this is the deadliest attack it has suffered since 2001. Among the victims were two officials from the agency working on elections, two from UNAMA, which runs the UN's political role in Afghanistan, and one from UNICEF. The US Embassy confirmed that one of the dead was an American national. Another is understood to be Filipino and three were African. At least six Afghans, including two of the attackers, died in the raid.

The militants struck just after the early morning call to prayer. Disguised as policemen, they shot their way into the compound, throwing grenades and killing two UN staffers as they came outside to investigate. They then detonated the explosives, setting fire to the three-storey building and sending some of the 30 guests scrambling to safety across the roof of a neighbouring building.

Separately, a rocket exploded inside the five-star Serena Hotel, the scene of an attack in 2008 when suicide bombers killed six people. No one was injured.

Security analysts said the guesthouse attack was well prepared. "They did quite some surveillance on this site," said one. "Having this level of knowledge, using Afghan National Police uniforms.... They knew the guards schedule. Smack bang in the middle of prayers."

The attack may have a heavy impact on aid agencies in the region. The last time foreign civilians were targeted in the capital, in 2008, several NGOs scaled back their operations. "There's going to be a bit of an exodus," one member of the aid community said. Others said resolve would not flag. "We're all trying to work as normal," Charlemagne Gomez, a friend of yesterday's victims, said.

Karzai's brother 'was on CIA's payroll for years'

World, page 29

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
people
Voices
Nigel Farage arrives for a hustings event at The Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday
voicesA defection that shows who has the most to fear from the rise of Ukip
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Life and Style
Brave step: A live collection from Alexander McQueen whose internet show crashed because of high demand
fashionAs the collections start, Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

CRM Developer (MS Dynamics 2011/2013, JavaScript)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: CRM MS Dynamic...

IT Teacher

£22000 - £33000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: ICT TeacherLeedsRandstad ...

Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL) Su...

Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution