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11 injured after gunmen blast Save the Children office in Afghanistan

Save the Children is an international non-governmental organisation that promotes children’s rights.

Afghan security force members arrive at the site of an attack in Jalalabad city, Afghanistan
Afghan security force members arrive at the site of an attack in Jalalabad city, Afghanistan
Image: Saifurahman Safi via PA Images

AT LEAST 11 people have been injured after gunmen blasted their way into Save the Children’s office in Afghanistan’s restive east yesterday.

After blowing up a car outside the British charity’s compound in Jalalabad city, the attackers used a rocket-propelled grenade to storm the complex.

“I can hear two attackers… They are looking for us,” an employee hiding inside the building told a friend in a WhatsApp message seen by an AFP reporter.

“Pray for us … Inform the security forces,” the man begged.

Save the Children is an international non-governmental organisation that promotes children’s rights, provides relief and helps support children in developing countries.

Nangarhar governor spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP the attack started at 9.10am (4.10am Irish time) – shortly after staff would have arrived at the office.

“A group of armed men then entered the compound. So far 11 wounded people have been brought to hospitals,” Khogyani added.

Mohammad Amin, who was inside the compound when the attackers launched the raid, told AFP from his hospital bed that he heard “a big blast”.

“We ran for cover and I saw a gunman hitting the main gate with an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) to enter the compound. I jumped out of the window,” Amin said.

Afghan TV news channels showed a thick plume of black smoke rising above the compound and what appears to be at least one vehicle on fire outside the office.

Another witness told AFP: “It might be a complex attack. I am hearing gunfire from inside Save the Children compound.”

Charities targeted

The assault comes days after Taliban gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in the Afghan capital, killing at least 22 people, mostly foreigners.

Insurgents armed with Kalashnikovs and suicide vests attacked the landmark Intercontinental Hotel, going from room to room searching for foreigners during the more than 12-hour ordeal.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Jalalabad attack and no one from Save the Children’s office in Kabul was available to comment.

The attack on Save the Children is the latest violence to strike a foreign aid group in war-torn Afghanistan.

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

The decision by the charity, which has been working in Afghanistan for over three decades, underlined the growing dangers for aid workers, who have increasingly become casualties of a surge in militant violence in recent years.

Nangarhar, a restive province bordering Pakistan, is a stronghold for the Islamic State group and also has a significant Taliban presence.

US and Afghan forces have been carrying out ground and air operations against IS fighters in Nangarhar.

While Afghan security forces are conducting most of the fighting against IS and Taliban militants, US troops operate alongside them in a training capacity and are frequently on the front lines.

The last major attack in Jalalabad was on 31 December when an explosion at a funeral killed 18 mourners and wounded another 13. There was no claim of responsibility.

- © AFP 2018

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