Taliban bomb strikes foreigners' guesthouse in Kabul; 3 militants, 1 policeman killed

The truck struck the entrance of Northgate guesthouse. Explosion was felt across the city. (Representative image) Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Kabul, Afghanistan Jul 31, 2016, 11.29 PM (IST)
A powerful Taliban truck bomb struck a guesthouse housing foreigners in Kabul on early Monday, officials said, just days after the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital for 15 years.

The attack ended on Monday after all three Taliban fighters were killed, around seven hours after the assault began, police said.

"The operation is over now. One policeman lost his life and three others were wounded but none of the hotel staff or guests were hurt," Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi told reporters.

"A truck packed with explosives struck the entrance of Northgate guesthouse," a security source said, without offering any further details.

Northgate, close to the US-run Bagram air base north of Kabul, houses foreign contractors and is a heavily guarded compound with blast walls and watchtowers. The guesthouse, which was cordoned off by security officials, was not immediately reachable by telephone.

The Taliban said the truck bomb at a guest house belonging to "American invaders" paved the way for their fighters to enter the facility with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms. The insurgents claimed that more than 100 people were killed and wounded in the attack. The Taliban are routinely known to exaggerate battlefield claims.

Tremors from the powerful explosion, which was preceded by a power outage, were felt across the city.  The attack comes as the Taliban ramp up their annual summer offensive after a brief lull during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which ended earlier this month.

The attack comes after twin bombings left 80 people dead in the Afghan capital on July 23, in the deadliest attack in the city since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001.

The bombings tore through crowds of minority Shiite Hazara protesters as they gathered to demand that a major power line be routed through the central province of Bamiyan, one of the most deprived areas of Afghanistan. That assault was claimed by the Islamic State group, which is making gradual inroads into Afghanistan, challenging the Taliban on their own turf. 

Afghan forces backed by US airstrikes have since ramped up an offensive against IS jihadists in their eastern stronghold of Nangarhar. The latest attack highlights growing insecurity in Afghanistan, which has resulted in large civilian casualties.

The UN last week said civilian casualties rose to a record high in the first half of 2016, with children in particular paying a heavy price as the conflict escalates.

Between January and June, 1,601 civilians were killed and 3,565 were wounded; a four per cent increase in casualties compared to the same period last year, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said.

Monday's assault illustrates the report's finding that suicide bombings and complex attacks are now hurting more civilians than roadside bombs.