Afghanistan: Attack on aid worker guesthouse likely to speed exodus of such workers

Taliban gunmen attacked and barricaded themselves inside a guesthouse of a U.S. aid group in Kabul on Friday, killing two Afghan civilian bystanders and wounding four guards in another outbreak of violence aimed at disrupting next week’s elections.

The attack, the third on foreign civilians in Kabul this month, was likely to further speed the exodus of aid workers and other foreigners ahead of the April 5 vote to pick a successor to President Hamid Karzai. The American University in Afghanistan said it was withdrawing expatriate staff after Friday’s attack.

On Friday, the gunmen, spearheaded by a suicide bomber, targeted a compound used by the California-based Roots of Peace charity, said the organization’s Afghanistan country director, Mohammad Sharif Osmani.

“Four of our colleagues were caught inside, but everyone got out safely,” Mr. Osmani said at the end of a police siege that continued from late afternoon into darkness.
Roots of Peace has worked in Afghanistan since 2003, focusing on clearing landmines left over the from the country’s Soviet occupation and civil war in the 1990s. The charity says its goal is to turn “mines to vines” by providing seeds and cropping expertise to Afghan farmers.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul released a statement condemning the attack and highlighting the work done in the country by Roots of Peace with American aid funding, saying that $40 million worth of funding had helped Afghan farmers increase crop yields for pomegranates and other fruits.

The Afghan Taliban, which claimed responsibility for Friday’s assault, claimed that the guesthouse in the affluent area of Karte Seh in western Kabul was being used by foreigners as a “church.”

“They were using the building to convert Afghans to Christianity and that is why we launched the attack there,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said…