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Foreign spies to blame for Kabul restaurant attack

Afghanistan’s National Security Council has accused “foreign intelligence services” of being behind Friday’s deadly attack on a Kabul restaurant.

It said such “sophisticated and complex” attacks could not have been carried out by “ordinary Taliban”.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide assault in central Kabul which killed 21 people.

The victims included the local IMF chief and citizens of at least nine nationalities.

The National Security Council is chaired by President Hamid Karzai.

Friday’s attack saw a suicide attacker detonate explosives outside the gate of the heavily fortified Taverna du Liban, then two gunmen entered the restaurant and started shooting. The gunmen were eventually shot dead by the security forces when they arrived at the scene.

Those killed were:

  • Eight Afghan citizens
  • Two Lebanese: Wabel Abdallah, the 60-year-old Lebanese head of the International Monetary Fund’s Afghanistan office, and the restaurant’s owner, Kamal Hamade
  • Three UN civilian staff from Russia, the US and Pakistan; the Russian national, Vadim Nazarov, was said to have been working on kick-starting peace talks with the Taliban, while Basra Hassan, a Somali-American, was working as a nutrition specialist for Unicef
  • Two other American citizens, both of whom worked for the American University of Afghanistan
  • Two Britons: Labour Party candidate for the European Parliament elections Del Singh, who was working for the economic advice consultancy Adam Smith International, and Simon Chase, reportedly serving with the EU police mission Eupol
  • Gnana Nagarajah, a Malaysian national who also worked for Adam Smith International
  • A Danish woman also serving with Eupol
  • Two Canadians who worked for a financial services firm

“The NSC said such sophisticated and complex attacks are not the work of the ordinary Taliban, and said without doubt foreign intelligence services beyond the border are behind such bloody attacks,” a statement quoted by the AFP news agency said.

Demonstrators gathered at the scene of the attack on Sunday to protest against the Taliban insurgency.

“We came to denounce the acts of terrorism that took place here,” said Lailee Rahimi, who works for the Counterpart International aid group.

“We wanted to show sympathy to the victims of the attack. We are against acts of the insurgents,” she added.

Zubair Ahmad, a construction company employee and student at the American University of Afghanistan, which lost two staff members in the bomb and gun attack, said: “We are rallying today to condemn the attack. We came here to show that we are against terrorism and we stand against it,” he said.

A number of Afghan officials have been suspended as an investigation is carried out into the attack.

The restaurant, in Kabul’s Wazir Akbar Khan area, had come under attack before and was considered a favourite destination for foreign nationals, diplomats and aid workers.

A Taliban statement indicated the restaurant had been targeted because it was frequented by high-ranking foreigners and served alcohol.

Mr Hamade had deployed a number of measures to keep pace with security requirements from foreign and Afghan organisations, the BBC’s Lyse Doucet reports.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned “in the strongest terms the horrific attack”, his spokesman said.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said: “Our hearts go out to Wabel [Abdallah’s] family and friends, as well as the other victims of this attack”.

Security continues to be a major concern in Afghanistan. The last remaining contingent of Nato-led forces is due to leave by the end of the year, having handed over security to Afghan forces.

Washington is pushing Mr Karzai to sign an agreement which would allow some US troops to stay behind after this year’s withdrawal.