A total of 21 people, including 13 foreigners, died in a Taliban suicide assault on a popular restaurant in Kabul, police said on Saturday, with two British citizens and two Canadians among those confirmed dead.
Among the dead were two British citizens, two Canadians, a senior International Monetary Fund (IMF) representative from Lebanon, and the restaurant’s Lebanese owner, who reportedly died after he tried to fire back at the attackers.
Four United Nations’ staff were killed in Friday’s attack, though their nationalities was not confirmed.
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Desperate customers tried to hide under tables as one attacker detonated his suicide vest at the fortified entrance to the Taverna du Liban and two other militants stormed inside and opened fire.
“Our latest figure is 21 killed, including 13 foreigners and eight Afghans,” Kabul police chief Mohammad Zahir said.
“Five women were among the dead and about five people were injured.”
The long-established Taverna has been a regular dining spot for foreign diplomats, consultants, aid workers and Afghans, and was busy with customers on Friday, the weekly holiday in Afghanistan.
Like many restaurants in Kabul, it ran strict security checks with diners patted down by armed guards and passing through at least two steel doors before gaining entry.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the massacre saying that “such targeted attacks against civilians are completely unacceptable and are in flagrant breach of international humanitarian law”.
The assault was quickly claimed by Taliban militants fighting against the Afghan government and US-led foreign forces in the country.
A militant spokesman said the attack was to avenge a US airstrike in Parwan province on Tuesday night that Afghan President Hamid Karzai said killed seven children and one woman.
“These invading forces have launched a brutal bombardment on civilians… and they have martyred and wounded 30 civilians. This was a revenge attack and we did it well, and we will continue to do so,” Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.