The Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack on the Kabul compound of the U.N. affiliated International Organization for Migration, killing one Afghan police officer, injuring three of the agency's staff members and an employee of the International Labor Organization (IOM), the U.N. announced. Several U.N. and Afghan security officials were also injured.
The incident marked one of the deadliest attack against a facility associated with the United Nations since Oct. 28, 2009, when armed Taliban militants broke into a U.N. guesthouse in Kabul and opened fire on U.N. personnel and their Afghan guards.[*See note below]. Five U.N. personnel died in that incident, including an American, Louis Maxwell, who was killed by the Afghan police who mistook him for a Taliban fighter.
Today's action heightened U.N. concerns about the safety of its workers at a time when the United States and its Western military allies are beginning to draw down in Afghanistan. The United Nations is expected to play a more active role after the United States completes its withdrawal by the end of 2014.
In a statement issued in Kabul, Jan Kubis, the U.N. secretary general's special representative to Afghanistan condemned "today's terrorist attack centered on a compound of the International Organization for Migration. He said the four injured international staffers, including one IOM worker who sustained serious injuries, are receiving medical care. All other U.N. staff members in Kabul have been accounted for, he said.
"The Taliban have claimed responsibility, alleging that their target was a ‘military rest house,'" he said. "The situation is reported to be under the control of Afghan security forces. The mopping up operation continues, with sporadic fire being heard." A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters the Taliban forces were targeting a compound used by the CIA. Reuters also reported that the assault began with a car bomb explosion outside the compound housing the IOM.
Following the 2009 attack in Kabul, the United Nations withdrew some staff from the country, relocated others to more fortified facilities, and bolstered their security arrangements, which are provided by Afghan police and Nepalese Gurkhas working under a private contract.
In October 2010, Taliban militants launched an attack on a U.N. compound in the town of Herat, striking the facility's gate with a car bomb to allow suicide bombers disguised as women into the compound. Though Afghan police were injured, the attack was effectively repelled by U.N. guards and Afghan police.
Following today's assault, Kubis expressed "gratitude" for the quick response by "UN security personnel, including Gurkha guards provided by the firm IDG Security, and Afghan forces." He also expressed "sympathies to all the IDG security personnel, Afghan police and security forces injured while bravely responding to this terrorist attack."
[Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that this was the deadliest attack on a U.N. facility since 2009. On April 1, 2011, a mob protesting the burning of a Koran by a Florida pastor stormed a U.N. compound in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, killing three international staffers and four Nepalese Gurkha soldiers." Turtle Bay regrets the error.
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Longtime Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch reports on all things United Nations for Turtle Bay.