Eli Ridder | AFGHANISTAN
The United Kingdom-based Save the Children aid organization has temporarily suspended its programs in Afghanistan after militant gunmen attacked its office compound and killed three staff in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Wednesday.
An Afghan soldier was also killed in during the effort to free about 46 people from the building held under siege by Daesh jihadist militants for 10 hours, with the majority of staff hiding in a safe room.
Authorities said that five militants were part of the attack and all of them were killed by security forces.
The non-for-profit Save the Children said it was “shocked and appalled at the violence” that was carried out against the organization’s “dedicated humanitarians”, stating that it would temporarily suspend all operations in Afghanistan.
“Investigations into the nature of the attack are ongoing and the motive cannot yet be confirmed,” the organization said in a statement, saying that “attacks against aid workers must never be tolerated” and have a “direct impact” on their work with children.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure that all of our staff get the support they need in the aftermath of this devastating incident.”
Save the Children also reported that four staff were injured and sent to hospital.
Shortly after 9 a.m. local time, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive in a vehicle that struck the entrance to the Save the Children compound, with reports of a militant using an RPG, or rocket propelled grande, to fire at the front gate.
Afghan Special Forces arrived to the scene soon after police had cordoned off an area around the offices and engaged in a battle that lasted until the evening on Wednesday, only finishing hours after officials said the incident was over.
Daesh news agency Amaq reported that the militants had targeted “British, Swedish, and Afghan institutions in Jalalabad”.
This comes soon after the Taliban militant group assaulted the Intercontinental Hotel in the Afghan capital Kabul, however, the group was quick to distance itself from association with the Save the Children compound attack.
Although early details were unclear at first, 71 Republic was in contact with Aghanistan’s Tolo News to confirm on-scene reports emerging in local media.
British envoy to Afghanistan Nicholas Key condemned the attack on Twitter, calling the incident an “outrage” and that “any attack on children [and] humanitarians is a crime against humanity”, explaining that he hoped for a “quick and safe end” to the situation.
Image of Afghan forces fighting during the siege from RFE/RL.