Five UN staff killed in suicide attack on Kabul guesthouse
Authorities urged to step up protection after 'dark day' for agency in Afghanistan
Thursday 29 October 2009
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
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 3 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 4 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
- 5 Yazidi sex slaves undergoing surgery to 'restore virginity' after being raped by Isis militants
General Election 2015: Tories sack candidate who said she would never support 'the Jew' Ed Miliband
The four utterly contradictory polls that tell the story of this election and why it is pointless trying to predict the outcome
9/11: Iranian General accuses US of organising September 11 terror attacks
General Election 2015: Prospect of Labour-SNP coalition makes one in four voters less likely to support Ed Miliband, says survey
General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
£65K - £75K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Creative Director...
£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global wholesaler and reta...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This organization is one of the founding names...
£30000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company are loo...