THREE Afghan officials have been suspended as an investigation began into a suicide bomb and gun attack in Kabul that killed 21 people.
The Taleban has admitted targeting a Lebanese restaurant, leaving 13 foreigners and eight Afghans dead.
Among the victims were a local International Monetary Fund head and British, Danish, Canadian, American, Lebanese, and Russian citizens.
The two Britons who died in the attacks were a Labour Party candidate for the European Parliament elections, Del Singh, and Simon Chase, who had served with the European Union police mission, Eupol.
The Afghan interior minister later warned security officials in the capital that negligence would not be tolerated.
A suicide attacker detonated his explosives outside the gate of the heavily fortified Taverna du Liban on Friday night, said deputy interior minister Mohammad Ayoub Salangi.
Two gunmen then entered the restaurant and started “indiscriminately killing” people inside, he added.
Wabel Abdallah, the 60-year-old Lebanese head of the IMF’s Afghanistan office, was among those killed, along with the restaurant’s Lebanese owner.
Vadim Nazarov, a Russian who was the chief political affairs officer at the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, was also killed in the attack.
The restaurant had come under attack before and was a popular meeting place for foreign nationals, diplomats and aid workers.
The Taleban also said the attack was a reprisal for an Afghan military operation earlier last week against insurgents in eastern Parwan province, which the insurgents claimed claimed the lives of many civilians.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned “in the strongest terms the horrific attack”, his spokesman said.
Abdul Majid, a chef at the restaurant, said: “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.”
Security continues to be a major concern in Afghanistan. The last remaining contingent of Nato-led forces is due to leave at the end of the year, by which time security is due to lie with Afghan forces.
The deadliest previous attack against foreign civilians was in September 2012, when nine employees of a private aviation company were killed in a suicide attack near Kabul airport.
Such attacks in the past have prompted a mass exodus of foreign staff from the country, and the insecurity has been compounded by the refusal of Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, to sign a security deal with the US that would keep about 10,000 troops there for up to ten more years.
Although a national assembly of elders endorsed the deal last year, Karzai is deferring its signature until after presidential elections due on 5 April – which the US has said may not give it enough time to plan and could lead to a pull-out of all foreign troops.
Yesterday Karzai 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”.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said Labour member Singh, had “dedicated his life to working with people across the world who needed his support” and had been killed in a “barbarous act of terror”.
He said: “People everywhere will be appalled and shocked by this barbarous act of terror deliberately targeting members of the international community living and working in Kabul in the service of the Afghan people.”
Singh had previously been an adviser to the European Mission in Kosovo and had worked on UN and Department for International Development-funded projects in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Libya, Nepal, and Palestine.
The other Briton, Chase, was originally from Liverpool, but had more recently lived in County Londonderry.
Ban Ki-moon said: “Such targeted attacks against civilians are completely unacceptable and in flagrant breach of international law. They must stop immediately.”