The Washington Post

Afghan militants hit Red Cross compound in second attack on a charity within a week

For the second time in five days, insurgents staged a combined suicide bombing and gun assault against an international aid agency in Afghanistan late Wednesday, this time targeting a guest house used by the International Committee of the Red Cross in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

Officials said one attacker detonated a bomb at the front gate of the building at dusk, then two more stormed inside and began exchanging fire with security guards. There were reports that one guard had been killed. Later, the Afghan Interior Ministry said that seven Red Cross workers had been safely evacuated from the building.

Robin Wando, a spokesman for the ICRC, confirmed the attack in Jalalabad and said the agency was “working to find out the whereabouts and well-being of our colleagues.” A total of 35 Red Cross staff work at the facility, including the seven foreigners who live there, the Associated Press reported.

In both tactics and target, the assault on the ICRC facility was similar to an insurgent attack Friday on a guest house in Kabul belonging to the International Organization for Migration, a United Nations-affiliated program that aids refugees. Three people died and 17 were injured in that attack, in which insurgent fighters took cover in the building and battled Afghan security forces for hours.

No insurgent group claimed responsibility for the attack on the Red Cross, a group that takes a neutral stance in combat situations and helps war prisoners communicate with their families. The Taliban said it had carried out the attack on the IOM in Kabul, which sent aid workers and nearby hotel guests scrambling to hide in basement bunkers.

Afghan policemen take their positions, during a gun battle between security forces and an insurgent, in Jalalabad east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, May 29, 2013. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

Earlier Wednesday, seven militants wearing police uniforms and suicide vests attacked a government compound in the capital of Panjshir, an eastern province that is the headquarters of Afghanistan’s most prominent anti-Taliban group and is often described as one of the most secure regions in the country.

Officials said that all the assailants were shot dead in a battle with Afghan security forces, and that a policeman also died. A Taliban spokesman said the group had carried out the attack.

Wednesday’s assaults were the latest in a spate of carefully coordinated and targeted terrorist attacks across the country — including included car bombings, assassinations and attacks on police posts — since the Taliban announced the start of its annual spring offensive last month.

An Afghan policeman is seen at the burning International Red Cross building, during a gun battle between security forces and an insurgent, in Jalalabad east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, May 29, 2013. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

Both the Taliban and another insurgent force, an armed faction of the Hezb-i-Islami party, have vowed to wage an aggressive campaign against both Afghan and international official targets in the months leading up to the planned withdrawal of NATO forces next year.

Pamela Constable covers immigration issues and immigrant communities. A former foreign correspondent for the Post based in Kabul and New Delhi, she also reports periodically from Afghanistan and other trouble spots overseas.

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