Three people have been killed in a car bomb and gun attack on the office of the non-governmental organisation, Save the Children, in eastern Afghanistan, according to local officials.
Two security guards and one civilian were killed and at least 25 others were wounded when a suicide attacker detonated a car bomb outside the headquarters of the international charity in Jalalabad early on Wednesday morning.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the attack via the group’s Amaq website, describing the targets as “British and Swedish institutes”.
Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, said 47 people were rescued from the office building after Afghan security forces and the attackers battled each other for more than eight hours.
“A harrowing day for them, more than eight-and-a-half hours trapped inside that building with those attackers. They have been rescued,” she said.
At least two attackers have been killed since the fighting broke out, Pajhwok Afghan News reported.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Jalalabad, Humayoon Babur, an Afghan journalist, said the attack had taken place in “the heart of the city”.
“[The area] is home to many government buildings … [and] the provincial government office,” he said.
Save the Children said it was suspending its operations in Afghanistan until it was safe to resume work.
In a statement, the children’s aid group confirmed that three of its staff members were killed.
“Save the Children condemns this attack in the strongest possible terms,” it said.
“We are shocked and appalled at the violence, carried out against our staff in Afghanistan who are dedicated humanitarians, committed to improving the lives and wellbeing of millions of children across the country.”
Monica Zanarelli, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Afghanistan, has called the attack “outrageous”.
“Increased violence has made operating in Afghanistan difficult for many organisations,” she said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The ICRC … will continue focusing on our dialogue with arm carriers – both the Afghan National Security Forces and the armed opposition – to discuss the principles of International Humanitarian Law and the respect for civilians and medical missions.”
The Jalalabad attack comes just days after at least 18 civilians were killed and 22 others wounded in an assault on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul.
The Taliban has since claimed responsibility for that assault, which lasted for 16 hours from the evening of January 20 before all the attackers were killed.
Michael Semple, a professor at Queen’s University Belfast and an expert on Afghanistan, said it was too early to say who was behind Wednesday’s attack, or the rationale behind it.
Looking at recent trends more broadly, however, Semple told Al Jazeera “the Taliban seem to be acting as if all foreigners – the foreign presence – is for them somehow important”.
“They say that they are attacking the invaders and rather than focusing on military targets, they are prepared to go with any element of the foreign presence in Afghanistan,” he said.[SOURCE: Al Jazeera News]