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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Wednesday, July 18, 2018

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ISIS gunmen attack Save the Children charity in Afghanistan

Save the Children

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JALALABAD, Afghanistan - A local Afghanistan affiliate of the Islamic State group claimed the violent attack on the office of a British charity in the country’s eastern city of Jalalabad. 

On Wednesday morning, a car bomb was detonated outside the ‘Save the Children’ charity in the city, after which, three gunmen used a rocket-propelled grenade to storm the complex and opened fire.

Officials said that three people were killed, including two guards and 20 others were injured.

The gun battle between militants and soldiers reportedly lasted for nine hours and officials said that the toll could have been much higher, if the Save the Children staff had not hidden themselves in a ‘safe room’ on the premises.

After the gun battle ended hours later, soldiers searched the offices and discovered about 40 people hiding in the safe room.

Post the attack, the British charity, Save the Children, which has operated in Afghanistan since 1976, said it was shutting down its operations in the country and will resume only after security assurance.

The charity provides education and relief for 1.4 million children in the country. 

The charity said in a statement, “In response to this all of our programs across Afghanistan have been temporarily suspended and our offices are closed. Afghanistan is one of the most difficult places in the world to be a child and for humanitarians to operate in.”

Local media broadcast images showing smoke and flames rising from the building in Jalalabad.

Other photos circulated on social media showed a group of panicked children running for cover on the street outside the burning building.

The attack comes even as the country is reeling from a deadly 16 hour long assault launched on the prominent Intercontinental hotel in Kabul, four days back by Taliban militants armed with Kalashnikovs and suicide vests, killed 22 people, including 14 foreigners. 

The attack became one of the bloodiest attacks against foreigners since Taliban was toppled in 2001.

While Taliban insurgents immediately claimed the weekend strike saying they specifically targeted expatriates visiting the hotel, the group disavowed any connection with the Jalalabad attack.

On Wednesday morning, the local affiliate of the Islamic State group claimed the attack on the charity.

The United Nations mission in Afghanistan released a statement condemning the assault.

It said that “attacks directed at civilians or aid organizations are clear violations of international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes.”

Over the past year, foreigners and aid groups in Afghanistan have been anxious due to the increasing number of attacks targetting them.

In 2017, some foreign charities reduced their activities in the country because of rising violence due to the ongoing tensions between Afghan forces, aided by the U.S. and NATO and a resurgent Taliban and affiliates of the Islamic State.

In October last year, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced it would "drastically" reduce its presence in the country after seven employees were killed in attacks. 

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