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Hammond condemns Taliban massacre

Published 14/05/2015

Afghan security forces inspecting the site of the explosion in Kabul (AP)
Afghan security forces inspecting the site of the explosion in Kabul (AP)

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has condemned an attack by the Taliban on a guest house in Kabul which left 14 people dead, including a Briton who worked for the British Council.

At least nine foreigners died when gunmen stormed the restaurant of the Park Palace Hotel in the Afghan capital yesterday.

The hotel was hosting a party for foreigners, and authorities said the victims were killed during a lengthy siege that ended today.

Mr Hammond said the British man, who held joint Afghan nationality, was working for the British Council in the country when he was killed.

He said: " I strongly condemn this terrorist attack in Kabul for which the Taliban have claimed responsibility.

"I can confirm that a dual British-Afghan national, who was working for the British Council, died in the attack. His family has been informed and consular staff are providing support at this difficult time. My thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues.

"This incident brings home to us once again the courage and perseverance of the people of Afghanistan and members of the international community who support them.

"These callous acts of terrorism against innocent civilians must not be allowed to threaten a more peaceful future for Afghanistan."

The Taliban has admitted responsibility for the attack, with the group's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid telling media via email that they targeted the hotel because foreigners were there.

The hotel has both guest rooms for visitors and a residential area for those who live full-time in Kabul, including foreign aid workers.

An American, an Italian and four Indians are also known to have died when gunmen stormed the building. The nationalities of the two other foreigners is not yet known.

Five Afghans were among the dead - four men and one woman - and seven were wounded, including one Afghan policeman. At least 54 hostages were rescued during the siege, Afghan officials said.

Amnesty International said the attack took place during a garden party. The hotel is located near a hospital and compounds used by aid agencies and formerly hosted United Nations staff.

Horia Mosadiq, Afghanistan researcher at Amnesty International, said: "This atrocious attack on a well-known hotel in central Kabul is a worrying sign that the Taliban's spring offensive is in full swing, putting civilians at heightened risk of death and injury.

"There has been a worrying spike in assaults carried out by the Taliban and other armed groups on 'soft targets' across Afghanistan in recent weeks - of which this is just the latest attack - resulting in a high civilian death toll.

"Some of these attacks could amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes and the authorities must ensure full investigations, with those suspected of criminal responsibility brought to trial."

According to the Agency Coordinating Body of Afghan Relief and Development (ACBAR), seven humanitarian workers were among those killed in last night's attack.

Mr Mosadiq added: " Reports that several aid workers were among those killed are especially worrying - the Taliban are again targeting the very individuals and agencies who are committed to help ordinary Afghan people."

Justine Greening, International Development Secretary, added: " I condemn yesterday's appalling attack on civilians in Kabul. We stand alongside all those seeking a better, more peaceful Afghanistan."

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