KABUL, Afghanistan – Taliban suicide attackers stormed a four-story house used by an American aid organization in north Afghanistan on Friday, killing four people before dying in a fierce, five-hour gunbattle with Afghan security forces.
The pre-dawn attack appeared part of a militant campaign against international development organizations at a time when the U.S. and its allies are trying to accelerate civilian aid efforts to turn back the Taliban.
It came on the same day that Gen. David Petraeus landed in the Afghan capital to take command of U.S. and international forces fighting the nearly 9-year-old war. Petraeus arrived from Brussels where he sought to reassure allies that the war against the Taliban was on track despite rising casualties and problems regaining control over key parts of the country.
Insurgents began their brazen attack in Kunduz at about 3:30 a.m. A suicide car bomber blew a hole in the wall around a building used by Development Alternatives Inc., a global consulting company based in the Washington, D.C., area on contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. The company is working on governance and community development issues in the area.
At least five other attackers, all wearing explosive vests, then ran inside the building, according to Afghan police and army officials. The insurgents killed or wounded security guards and others before dying themselves in a gunbattle with Afghan security forces who raced to the scene.
“It was 3 o’clock in the morning, close to the morning prayer time, when a suicide bomber in a 4x4 vehicle exploded his vehicle,” Gen. Abdul Razaq Yaqoubi, police chief in Kunduz province, said as Afghan national security forces were still battling to kill the last surviving attacker. “There is no way for him to escape.”
Black smoke billowed from the windows of the house. The bodies of the victims were found lying amid broken glass, rubble and pools of blood. Stunned aid workers were led from the scene as NATO troops carried bodies wrapped in black plastic out on stretchers.
One British, one German and two Afghan nationals were killed, according to a statement issued by DAI in Bethesda, Md. They all worked for DAI’s security subcontractor, Edinburgh International, DAI said. Several other people, including two members of the DAI staff, were among those injured.