UN guest house attacked in Kabul; 10 killed

UN guest house attacked in Kabul; 10 killed

Militants also fired rockets at the luxury Serena Hotel favoured by foreigners

UN guest house attacked in Kabul; 10 killed

Smoke can be seen rising in central Kabul on Wednesday. APMilitants also fired rockets at the luxury Serena Hotel favoured by foreigners and located on the outer limit of the presidential palace but caused no casualties, presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada said.

The rocket failed to explode but filled the lobby with smoke, forcing guests and employees to flee to the basement, according to an Afghan witness who asked that his name not be used for security reasons.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility, saying it was meant as an assault on the upcoming presidential election.

UN spokesman Adrian Edwards said six UN staff were killed and nine other UN employees were injured in the assault, which began about dawn in the Shar-e-Naw area of the city. Terrified guests scurried from the building during the assault _ some screaming for help and others jumping from upper floors as flames engulfed part of the three-story building.

Afghan police official Abdul Ghafar Sayedzada said 10 people in all were killed, including three attackers, and that police had taken control of the building.

As the gunfire echoed from the house it was surrounded by security personnel who shot dead the three attackers as they came out. Later their bodies were taken out of the house and sent for autopsy, said Gul Mohammad, an officer at the scene.

Police were seen pulling the charred body of what appeared to be a woman from a second-floor bedroom. One policeman carried an injured German man by piggyback away from the scene.

Edwards said officials were trying to account for several other UN workers who were staying at the guest house. He did not know their nationalities but said they were non-Afghans.

"This has clearly been a very serious incident for us," Edwards said.
"We've not had an incident like this in the past."

A security guard, Noor Allah, said he saw a woman screaming for help in English from a second story window and watched as terrified guests leapt from windows. Afghan police using ladders rescued at least one wounded foreigner.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack on the guest house and the Serena in a telephone call to The Associated Press, saying three militants with suicide vests, grenades and machine guns carried out the assault.

He said three days ago the Taliban issued a statement threatening anyone working on the November 7 runoff election between President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah.
"This is our first attack," he said.

Afghans vote November 7 in a second round election after UN-backed auditors threw out nearly a third of Karzai's votes from the August 20 ballot, determining widespread fraud. That pushed Karzai's totals below the 50 per cent threshold needed for a first round victory in the 36-candidate field.

The Taliban warned Afghans to stay away from the polls or risk attacks. Dozens of people were killed in Taliban attacks during the August balloting, helping drive down turnout.

The guesthouse attack was the third major assault in the capital in recent weeks.

On October 8, a suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle outside the Indian Embassy, killing 17 people, mostly civilians, and wounding at least 76 more. The Afghan Foreign Ministry hinted at Pakistani involvement, a charge Pakistan denied.

On September 17, a suicide car bomber killed six Italian soldiers and 10 Afghan civilians on one of Kabul's main roadways.