Afghanistan security probe after Kabul restaurant raid

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Media captionCaroline Wyatt reports: ''Security here was seen as tight''

A number of Afghan officials have been suspended as an investigation is carried out into a suicide bomb and gun attack in Kabul that killed 21 people.

The Taliban has admitted targeting a Lebanese restaurant, leaving 13 foreigners and eight Afghans dead.

Among the victims were a local IMF head and Canadian, American, UK, Lebanese, Russian and Danish citizens.

The Afghan interior minister has warned security officials in the capital that negligence will not be tolerated.

Mohammad Omar Daudzai told Afghan TV that the head of the precinct in which the attack took place, and two other officials had been suspended. "They will be investigated as part of a probe into the incident that took place last night."

A suicide attacker detonated his explosives outside the gate of the heavily fortified Taverna du Liban, Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Ayoub Salangi said.

Two gunmen then entered the restaurant and started "indiscriminately killing" people inside, he added.

Wabel Abdallah, the 60-year-old Lebanese head of the International Monetary Fund's Afghanistan office, was killed, along with the restaurant's popular Lebanese owner, Kamal Hamade.

His restaurant, in Kabul's Wazir Akbar Khan area, had come under attack before and was considered a favourite destination for foreign nationals, diplomats and aid workers.

A Taliban statement indicated the restaurant had been targeted because it was frequented by high-ranking foreigners and served alcohol.

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Media captionAri Gaitanis UN Spokesman: "It is a very heavy day here for us"

Mr Hamade had deployed a number of measures to keep pace with security requirements from foreign and Afghan organisations, the BBC's Lyse Doucet reports. Among the other victims were

  • Three UN civilian staff from Russia, the US and Pakistan
  • The Russian national was said to have been working on kick-starting peace talks with the Taliban
  • Two Britons: Labour Party candidate for the European Parliament elections Del Singh and Simon Chase, reportedly serving with the EU police mission, Eupol
  • A Danish woman also serving with Eupol
  • Two Canadians - it was unclear who they were working for
  • At least one other American, according to the US embassy
  • 13 Afghan nationals

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned "in the strongest terms the horrific attack", his spokesman said.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said: "Our hearts go out to Wabel [Abdallah's] family and friends, as well as the other victims of this attack".

Image copyright AP
Image caption Security forces flooded the area soon after the attack
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The restaurant, in the heart of Kabul's embassy district, was popular with diplomats and foreign workers.
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The explosion wrecked the restaurant and destroyed nearby vehicles.

"I was sitting with my friends in the kitchen when an explosion happened and smoke filled the kitchen," Abdul Majid, a chef at the restaurant, told AFP news agency.

"A man came inside shouting and he started shooting. One of my colleagues was shot and fell down. I ran to the roof and threw myself to the neighbouring property."

The attackers were eventually shot dead by the security forces when they arrived at the scene.

The BBC's Mahfouz Zubaide heard the blast and gunfire from at least two kilometres away. He said the gunfire went on sporadically for about 10 minutes.

Security continues to be a major concern in Afghanistan. The last remaining contingent of Nato-led forces is due to leave by the end of the year, having handed over security to Afghan forces.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai also condemned the attack, saying in a statement that if US-led Nato forces wanted to be united with the Afghan people "they have to target terrorism".

Washington is pushing Mr Karzai to sign an agreement which would allow some US troops to stay behind after this year's withdrawal.

The Taliban told the BBC's John Simpson earlier this week that they were now back in control of large areas of Afghanistan and were confident of returning to power after Western troops left.

Our correspondent says it is hard to believe the Taliban could make a comeback as things stand, but their takeover of Kabul in 1996 was unexpected, and they could be strengthened if a weak, corrupt president is elected in April.

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