Taliban attack on US-based aid group raises concern in Kabul

Humanitarian groups reel as Taliban attacks Counterpart International for 'promoting western culture', killing nine.

    Wednesday's blast felled trees and toppled concrete walls on the street outside Counterpart International's office [Rahmat Gul/AP]
    Wednesday's blast felled trees and toppled concrete walls on the street outside Counterpart International's office [Rahmat Gul/AP]

    A deadly Taliban attack on a United State-based aid group in the Afghan capital has raised concerns among other relief organisations that they could also be targeted.

    Authorities said Wednesday's assault on Counterpart International in Kabul killed at least nine people as fighters set off a huge explosion and battled security forces for over six hours.

    Anti-poverty group CARE, which has its offices close to Counterpart International, said three of its workers - a driver, watchman and a technical adviser - were killed in the blast.


    "This attack reflects the increasing dangers of humanitarian work in conflict-affected countries such as Afghanistan and the unfortunate daily reality of violence for many Afghan families," CARE said in a statement.

    At least 20 civilians were wounded in the attack, which saw several Taliban gunmen storm the Counterpoint compound after the blast. They were all killed by Afghan commandos.

    The blast radius extended hundreds of metres in all directions, blowing out windows in nearby homes and businesses.

    Dozens of workers could be seen sweeping debris and broken glass from streets in the popular Shahr-e-Naw neighbourhood in central Kabul, which is home to many shops, restaurants and hotels.

    Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Thursday said the group targeted Counterpart International because it promoted "western culture", including encouraging the mixing of the genders, which is a taboo for the armed group.

    Mujahid claimed the NGO was also training Afghan security forces, without elaborating on the allegation. 

    The attack came as the Taliban holds peace talks with the US in Qatar.


    According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 30 aid workers were killed last year in Afghanistan, one of the most dangerous countries for humanitarian groups.

    Afghanistan was once a hub of foreign aid but deteriorating security has seen international groups downgrade their presence, making it even more difficult to deliver crucial help to the war-torn country's most vulnerable citizens.

    Several aid groups, including Save the Children, have been targeted, forcing them to suspend their operations.

    SOURCE: News agencies