UN staff and US teacher among 21 dead in Kabul attack

An Afghan special force soldier passes a damaged car next to the entrance of a Lebanese restaurant that was attacked in Kabul, on Jan 18, 2014. Survivors of the Taliban suicide attack on a restaurant in Kabul told on Saturday of the carnage and blood
An Afghan special force soldier passes a damaged car next to the entrance of a Lebanese restaurant that was attacked in Kabul, on Jan 18, 2014. Survivors of the Taliban suicide attack on a restaurant in Kabul told on Saturday of the carnage and bloodshed, as details emerged of the 21 people, including 13 foreigners, who died in the assault. -- PHOTO: AFP

KABUL (AFP) - Survivors of the Taliban suicide attack on a restaurant in Kabul told on Saturday of the carnage and bloodshed, as details emerged of the 21 people, including 13 foreigners, who died in the assault.

Desperate customers hid under tables when one attacker detonated his suicide vest at the fortified entrance to the Taverna du Liban and two other militants stormed inside and opened fire.

Among the dead were two Americans, two British citizens, two Canadians, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) head of mission, and the restaurant's Lebanese owner, who reportedly died as he tried to fire back at the attackers.

A female Danish member of the European police mission in Afghanistan and a Russian UN political officer also died in the Friday evening massacre, which was the deadliest attack on foreign civilians since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.

The United Nations said that four of its staff had died, though it did not release their nationalities.

"We were in the kitchen, and suddenly we heard a big bang and everywhere was dark," Atiqullah, 27, an assistant chef, said by telephone as he attended a funeral for three dead guards.

"We used a backdoor to go to the second floor. Our manager went downstairs to see what was happening. We heard some gunshots and later found out that he had been shot dead.

"Afterwards, the police took us back into the restaurant to identify victims. We identified three guards who were killed.

"There was blood everywhere, on tables, on chairs, apparently the attackers had shot people from a very close range."

The Taverna has been a regular dining spot for foreign diplomats, aid workers and Afghan officials and businessmen for several years, and was busy with customers on Friday, the weekly holiday in Afghanistan.

Like many restaurants in Kabul, it ran strict security checks, with diners patted down by armed guards and passing through at least two steel doors before gaining entry.

On Saturday morning, the Taverna's battered sign was still in place, hanging over the ruined remains of the entrance door. Several badly damaged cars also remained at the scene.

Among the dead were a Briton and Malaysian working as consultants to the Afghan finance ministry.

The American University of Kabul said one US victim had recently joined its faculty of political science, and the other was a member of the student affairs staff.

"Our latest figure is 21 killed, including 13 foreigners and eight Afghans," Kabul police chief Mohammad Zahir said.

"Five women were among the dead and about five people were injured."

President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack, and called on US-led Nato forces fighting in Afghanistan "to target terrorism" in the country.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon also denounced the killings, which his spokesman said were "completely unacceptable and are in flagrant breach of international humanitarian law".

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