KABUL: Gunmen stormed the office of UK-headquartered relief agency "Save the Children" on Wednesday in Afghanistan’s eastern city of Jalalabad, killing two people and leaving more than a dozen injured in an hours-long battle with security forces.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency, saying it targeted “British and Swedish foundations and Afghan government institutes.”
A suicide bomber detonated his vehicle at the entrance of the three-story office of "Save the Children" at 9 a.m., making way for the gunmen to enter the facility. Several other aid groups and government offices are also located in the area, Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial government, told Arab News.
The security forces engaged the attackers in a gunfight that lasted for hours, he said. Law enforcement agencies also evacuated people from nearby buildings.
A statement released by Save the Children said: “We are devastated at the news that our 'Save the Children' office in Jalalabad city, Afghanistan, came under attack this morning as armed men entered the building … Our primary concern is for the safety and security of our staff. We are awaiting further information from our team and cannot comment further at this time.”
As a result of the attack, "Save the Children" — one of the largest relief organizations in Afghanistan — has temporarily suspended its operations in the country.
“We remain committed to resuming our operations and lifesaving work as quickly as possible, as soon as we can be assured that it is safe to do so,” the statement said.
The UN mission in Afghanistan slammed the strike, tweeting, “Attacks directed at civilians or aid organizations are clear violations of international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes.”
An increase in attacks against aid groups in Afghanistan has led to a notable scaling back of their activities in the war-torn country in recent years. Seven Red Cross aid workers were killed in an ambush last February, leading the organization to announce a “drastic” reduction in its Afghanistan presence in October.
Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said in a statement: “An attack against a charity that helps children in such a critical condition... and provides them with the means of education...is against all human and Islamic values.”
Nick May, the British ambassador to Afghanistan, called the attack “horrific” and tweeted that “any attack on children & humanitarians is a crime against humanity.”
The attack on "Save the Children" comes days after Taliban militants stormed Kabul’s Intercontinental hotel, killing at least 22 people.