Kabul Suicide Attack Kills 21 At Downtown Restaurant

At least 21 people — most of them foreigners — died when the Taliban struck a restaurant popular with Westerners in downtown Kabul on Friday. Two of them were Americans. It appeared to be a well-coordinated attack.

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LYNN NEARY, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary. Scott Simon is away. In Afghanistan, the Taliban staged a suicide attack on a Kabul restaurant that's a favorite among foreigners in the city. The attack appears to be the deadliest violence against Western civilians in Kabul since 2001. So far, it's been confirmed that 13 foreigners, including three Americans, were among the 21 killed.

The dead include three U.N. personnel, the International Monetary Fund country director, and the owner of the popular restaurant. NPR's Sean Carberry reports.

SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: It was about 7:30 on Friday night when a suicide bomber approached the entrance to the Lebanese Taverna here in Kabul. He detonated his vest, killing several security guards and at least one civilian who was sitting outside in a car. According to officials after the initial blasts, two gunmen worked their way into the restaurant and began indiscriminately shooting the customers.

FUAD: (Foreign language spoken)

CARBERRY: That's Fuad, who gave only one name. He was working in the restaurant at the time of the attack.

FUAD: (Through translator) We managed to escape upstairs and saw that the staff were following us.

CARBERRY: The owner of the restaurant, Kamal Hamade, told the guests to flea upstairs too. Hamade reportedly grabbed a gun and went back downstairs to fight the attackers, but he was gunned down along with more than a dozen others inside the restaurant.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRYING)

CARBERRY: Outside one of the city morgues, relatives of one of the Afghan victims wailed inconsolably, unable to grasp how this could happen in an upscale neighborhood of Kabul where there's a significant security presence. The Taliban issued a statement saying the attack was retribution for an alleged U.S. airstrike earlier in the week that killed civilians.

The militants say they were targeting a restaurant, quote, "frequented by high-ranking foreigners where they used to dine with booze and liquor in the plenty." The international community here is largely in shock over the loss of friends and colleagues. A number of international workers say their organizations have implemented strict security protocols for the time being.

Some are in complete lockdown, other's banned from going to restaurants until they can determine if this was an isolated incident, or a sign that Taliban are now targeting innocent civilians in the city. Sean Carberry, NPR News, Kabul.

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