Hours-long attack on charity in Afghan capital Kabul ends after 3 attackers killed: Official

Members of the Afghan fire service wash down the scene of an attack near the defense Ministry, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept 5, 2016.
Members of the Afghan fire service wash down the scene of an attack near the defense Ministry, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept 5, 2016. PHOTO: EPA
Afghan security officials inspect the site of an attack near the defense Ministry, in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sept 5, 2016.
Afghan security officials inspect the site of an attack near the defense Ministry, in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sept 5, 2016. PHOTO: EPA
Smoke rises from a building during an attack on a charity at the Shar-e-Naw in Kabul on Sept 5, 2016.
Smoke rises from a building during an attack on a charity at the Shar-e-Naw in Kabul on Sept 5, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

KABUL (AFP) - An hours-long militant attack on a Kabul charity ended on Tuesday (Sept 6) after all three assailants were gunned down by Afghan forces, the Interior Ministry said.

"Forty-two people including 10 foreigners were rescued," ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Twitter, confirming at least one fatality in the attack.

Explosions and erratic gunfire rang out Tuesday in the militant attack on a Kabul charity, which erupted hours after a Taleban double bombing killed at least 24 people and left dozens of others wounded.

At least one person died in the assault on a charity called Pamlarena, which means care in Pashto, but it was unclear if the target was the international charity CARE.

A plume of smoke rose over the upscale neighbourhood of Shar-e Naw after the attack began when a third massive explosion jolted the Afghan capital late on Monday.

No militant group has so far claimed responsibility for the raid on the charity, but it comes as the Taleban ramp up their nationwide offensive against the US-backed government.

"We believe two attackers have entered the building. Unfortunately one civilian has been killed and six others wounded," Mr Sediqqi told AFP. CARE International was not immediately reachable for comment.

The assault came just hours after high-level officials, including an army general, were killed in the twin blasts near the defence ministry, in an attack apparently aimed at inflicting mass casualties.

The second blast struck just as soldiers, policemen and civilians hurried to help the victims of the first explosion, which occurred on a bridge near the ministry.

Ambulances rushed to the scene, littered with disfigured bodies and charred debris. But there were so many bodies that some had to be taken to hospitals in car boots and the back of police pickup trucks.

Firemen, meanwhile, raced to retrieve some bodies thrown into the Kabul River by the intensity of the first blast on the bridge.

Health ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh said the double bombing left 24 people dead and 91 others wounded, some of them seriously, adding the casualties could rise still further.

The violence highlights the deteriorating security situation in the country, which has taken a heavy toll on civilians.

"The enemies of Afghanistan have lost their ability to fight the security and defence forces of the country," President Ashraf Ghani said on Monday, condemning the twin blasts.

"That is why they are attacking highways, cities, mosques, schools and common people." Taleban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter that the defence ministry was the object of the first attack, while police were targeted in the second.

The violence comes more than a week after 16 people were killed when militants stormed the American University in Kabul, in a nearly 10-hour raid that prompted anguished pleas for help from trapped students.

Explosions and gunfire rocked the campus in that attack, which came just weeks after two university professors - an American and an Australian - were kidnapped at gunpoint near the school.

Their whereabouts are still unknown and no group so far has publicly claimed responsibility for the abductions.

The uptick in violence in the capital comes as the Taleban escalate nationwide attacks, underscoring the worsening security situation since Nato forces ended their combat mission at the end of 2014.

Afghan forces backed by US troops are seeking to head off a potential Taleban takeover of Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern opium-rich province of Helmand.

The Taleban have also closed in on Kunduz - the northern city they briefly seized last year in their biggest military victory since the 2001 US invasion - leaving Afghan forces stretched on multiple fronts.