KABUL – Taliban militants have attacked the offices of an international aid group in central Kabul, killing at least five people and wounding 24, officials say.
Interior Ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi told RFE/RL that the May 8 assault began at 11:40 a.m. local time with a large explosion at the non-profit organization Counterpart International, resulting in a stand-off with Afghan security forces.
Five gunmen then stormed the compound before Afghan security forces launched an hours-long clearance operation, the Interior Ministry said.
It said that the siege ended hours later after all attackers were killed.
Four civilians and one police officer were said to be among those killed, while about 200 people were evacuated from the area.
A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the aid group was targeted because it was involved in what he described as “harmful Western activities” inside Afghanistan and the "inter-mixing" of men and women.
The attack came as Afghanistan observes the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and amid a new round of talks between the United States and the Taliban in Qatar, which aim to bring an end to the almost 18-year war in Afghanistan.
Counterpart International, which as operated in Afghanistan since 2005, says it runs civic engagement projects supporting women and other marginalized groups across the country.
"We are incredibly saddened by this attack and are working as quickly as possible to account for our staff," the group said in a statement.
John Bass, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, described the attack as "senseless violence," saying that the targeted organization “helps local communities, trains journalists, and supports the Afghan people.”
“Today’s attack particularly deplorable, hitting civilians helping Afghans & taking place during Ramadan,” the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a tweet.
Taliban Attacks U.S. Aid Group's Kabul Offices, Killing Five