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Foreigners among 14 killed in Kabul guesthouse attack

AT-KABUL: At least fourteen people, including foreigners, were killed in armed attack on a Kabul guesthouse, sources said on Thursday.

“Five people, including foreigners, were killed and six were injured,” Kabul Police Chief, Abdul Rahman Rahimi, said at the scene of the attack.

But another police official on the condition of anonymity, told Afghanistan Times that 14 people, including foreigners, were killed and six were injured in the attack.

The gunfight lasted for several hours between the attacker and Afghan security forces, in the guesthouse which is popular with foreigners and Afghans. “Four Indian citizens, four Afghans, Two Pakistanis, one each Italian, British, American and Kazak nationals were killed,” he said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the overnight siege on the Park Palace, located in Kulula Pushta area of Kabul city, but it comes as the Taliban, who have waged many attacks on locations frequented by foreigners, press their annual spring offensive.

The assault, which lasted around seven hours and triggered explosions and sporadic bursts of gunfire, comes as Afghan forces face their first fighting season against the insurgents without the full support of US-led foreign combat troops.

At least 60 people were present in the guest house during the attack most of whom were rescued by security forces.

Rahimi did not give a breakdown of the nationalities of those killed, but the US embassy confirmed one American fatality and the Indian ambassador tweeted that there were “a few Indian casualties” without specifying if they were wounded or had been killed.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said earlier in a tweet that he was concerned about the situation and “pray for everyone’s safety.”

Officials earlier said three to four attackers were involved, but after the attack was ended police chief said only one attacker entered into the guest house.

The Park Palace was due to host a concert by well-known Afghan classical singer Altaf Hussain, when the gunfire started, an eyewitness said.

The attack comes a day after a visit to Kabul by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who assured Afghanistan of Islamabad’s full support in its battle against the Taliban, saying “the enemies of Afghanistan cannot be the friends of Pakistan”.

His unusually strong remarks are the latest sign of a thaw in the once-frosty relationship between the two countries. Afghan officials have frequently accused longtime nemesis Pakistan of harboring and nurturing Taliban insurgents.

But Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has actively courted Pakistan since coming to power in what observers say is a calculated gambit to pressure the insurgents to come to the negotiating table.

Taliban insurgents, who have waged a 13-year war to topple the US-backed Afghan government, launched their spring offensive across Afghanistan late last month, stepping up attacks on government and foreign targets.

The militants have staged a string of attacks on compounds, restaurants and guesthouses frequented by foreigners, including two separate assaults in Kabul last November, one of which left a South African man and his two teenage children dead.

They also launched a major attack on a compound of the International Organization for Migration in 2013.

Afghan forces are now solely responsible for security in the volatile country, after NATO’s combat mission formally ended in December with a small follow-up force staying on to train and support local personnel.

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