ISIS gunmen storm children's charity in Afghan city; 2 killed

Afghan soldiers taking positions near the office of British charity Save the Children yesterday. Children and residents fled as Afghan Special Forces arrived to engage the attackers who stormed the office.
Afghan soldiers taking positions near the office of British charity Save the Children yesterday. Children and residents fled as Afghan Special Forces arrived to engage the attackers who stormed the office.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

JALALABAD • Gunmen stormed an office of the Save the Children aid agency in Afghanistan's eastern city of Jalalabad yesterday and battled security forces surrounding the building, killing at least two people and wounding 20, officials said.

Terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack, which began with a suicide car bomb outside the office about 9am, followed by gunmen entering the compound.

Schoolchildren and residents fled as Afghan Special Forces arrived to engage the attackers. "There was a blast and the target was Save the Children," said Mr Attaullah Khogyani, a provincial government spokesman.

Some witnesses said there appeared to have been at least four attackers in police uniform, a commonly used tactic. Provincial health officials said 20 wounded people had been taken to hospital.

"An explosion rocked the area and right after that children and people started running away," said Mr Ghulam Nabi, who was nearby when the bomb exploded.

ISIS said the attack targeted British, Swedish and Afghan government institutions, in a statement on its Amaq news agency.

The attack underlines how difficult operating in Afghanistan has become for humanitarian aid bodies, which have faced heavy pressure from armed groups and kidnappers. In October, the Red Cross said it was drastically reducing operations in Afghanistan after attacks killed seven staff last year.

"An attack against an organisation that helps children is outrageous. Civilians and aid workers must not be targeted," said Ms Monica Zanarelli, head of the Red Cross delegation in Afghanistan.

"Increased violence has made operating in Afghanistan increasingly difficult for many organisations."

Save the Children said it has closed its offices in Afghanistan and temporarily suspended operations.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2018, with the headline 'ISIS gunmen storm children's charity in Afghan city; 2 killed'. Print Edition | Subscribe