Taliban attacks charity in Kabul
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban attacked the offices of a U.S.-based charity on Friday, a complex assault that occurred just over a week before the country's presidential election.
The attack, involving a suicide car bombing and four gunmen, was directed at the Roots of Peace facility in the Kart-e-Char neighborhood of southwestern Kabul, the organization's founder and chief executive, Heidi Kuhn, confirmed in an e-mail.
After a standoff of several hours, 25 foreign residents of the Roots of Peace guesthouse were released when Afghan forces intervened, killing the four attackers. An Afghan girl died during the attack.
There has been a surge in violence in the Afghan capital in recent weeks, including several attacks on Western and high-profile Afghan targets. A number of foreign election observers and other Westerners have left Kabul, fearing continued violence.
Although the attack proved to be less deadly than previous assaults on high-profile targets, it adds to an already tense security environment. The Taliban has pledged to execute attacks across the country that would threaten voters and destabilize the country's fragile political process. The election is scheduled for April 5.
In recent months, there appears to have been a shift in Taliban tactics resulting in a more concerted effort to target foreign civilians in Kabul.
After last week's attack on the Serena hotel, which left nine people dead, two groups of election observers — the National Democratic Institute and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe — withdrew their employees from the country.
In a statement, the Taliban said it had attacked the Roots of Peace guesthouse because it was used by foreigners as a “church used to convert Afghans.”
The nonprofit organization has no stated religious affiliation. Roots of Peace is a California-based group that has worked in Afghanistan for a decade helping local farmers cultivate vineyards and orchards. According to its website, the group has received millions of dollars in funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Although all of the organization's employees survived, some reportedly were injured by shattered glass.