KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A Taliban attack against a popular Kabul restaurant killed 21 people, authorities said Saturday, making it the deadliest single attack against foreign civilians in the course of a nearly 13-year U.S.-led war there now approaching its end.
The attack comes as security has been deteriorating and apprehension has been growing among Afghans over their country's future as U.S.-led foreign forces prepare for a final withdrawal at the end of the year.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is deferring signing an agreement allowing U.S. forces to stay past the planned withdrawal until after the country's April 5 presidential election, criticized America while condemning the attack.
"If NATO forces and in the lead the United States of America want to cooperate and be united with Afghan people, they must target terrorism," he said without fully elaborating on what America should be doing. He added that the U.S. had followed a policy that "was not successful in the past decade."
The dead from Friday's assault against La Taverna du Liban included 13 foreigners and eight Afghans, all civilians. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said late Saturday that three Americans were killed. Previously, those identified included two U.S. citizens working for the American University of Afghanistan and a victim identified by the United Nations as Basra Hassan, a Somali-American working as a nutrition specialist for UNICEF.
Others identified were two Britons — development specialist Dharmender Singh Phangura and close protection officer Simon Chase — two Canadians who worked for a financial services firm, two Lebanese, a Danish police officer, a Russian, and a Malaysian. Phangura, who along with the Malaysian worked as an adviser for Adam Smith International, was to run as a Labour Party candidate in upcoming elections for the European Parliament.
Also among the dead were the International Monetary Fund's representative, Khanjar Wabel Abdallah of Lebanon; Nasreen Khan, a UNICEF health specialist from Pakistan, and Vadim Nazarov, a Russian who was the chief political affairs officer at the U.N. Mission in Afghanistan. Nazarov was one of the U.N's most experienced officials, fluent in the country's languages and with experience dating back to the 1980s. .
The attack was condemned by the U.N. Security Council, NATO, the White House and the European Union.
"There is no possible justification for this attack, which has killed innocent civilians, including Americans, working every day to help the Afghan people achieve a better future with higher education and economic assistance," the White House said in a statement Saturday.
U.N. Secretary-General called the attack "totally unacceptable."
"This is a violation of international humanitarian law. All the perpetrators must be held accountable," Ban said, adding that the U.N. "remains committed to work for the peace, stability and development of Afghanistan."