Kabul police chief quits after Taleban attack

THE police chief in Afghanistan’s capital quit yesterday, following a third deadly Taleban attack in ten days on foreign guest houses in Kabul.
Kabul's police chief general Zahir Zahir (2nd left). Picture: AFP/Getty ImagesKabul's police chief general Zahir Zahir (2nd left). Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Kabul's police chief general Zahir Zahir (2nd left). Picture: AFP/Getty Images

General Zahir Zahir gave no reason for his resignation, but he seems to be paying the price for security failures.

Kabul police also declined to comment on the reason for Gen Zahir’s resignation. “We can only confirm … he will not continue his job as police chief,” spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai said.

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President Ashraf Ghani, who came to power in September, vowing to bring peace after decades of conflict, was last night due to give a televised address.

The charity whose guest house was targeted in the latest attack said three of its aid workers had been killed by insurgents, who used guns and explosives. Earlier, Kabul police said one foreigner and one Afghan had died.

The statement on the website of the US-based Partnership in Academics and Development (PAD) did not give the nationalities of the three who died, but a western security official said they were South Africans.

The Taleban said it had attacked the foreign guest house because it was a centre of Christian faith.

This was the second time this year the Taleban have targeted a group that it said had links to Christianity.

The Taleban and its militant allies have increased pressure on Kabul, which has seen a spike in deadly attacks on military and civilian targets.

Over the past ten days, three compounds used by foreign organisations have been attacked. In separate attacks in Kabul, two US soldiers, two British Embassy workers and dozens of Afghan civilians have died.

PAD, which supports education in Afghanistan, said it would continue its activities despite the attack.

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Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi did not identify the dead, only saying they worked for a foreign aid group which he declined to name.

Security forces rescued six Afghans held hostage by the attackers during the assault.

After storming the building in a residential suburb of west Kabul, one of the attackers detonated an explosives-packed suicide vest and security forces shot dead two others, Mr Sediqqi said.

The Taleban claimed the attack in a statement, saying they had targeted “a secret missionary centre”.

One witness, Samir Noorzai, said Europeans who worked as consultants for the Afghan government lived there. Others said it was the home of Christian missionaries.

The Taleban have waged a series of large-scale attacks on Kabul in recent days, including an assault in the wealthy Wazir Akbar Khan district, home to embassies and international agencies, and the suicide bombing of a British Embassy vehicle. There have been about a dozen attacks in the past two weeks alone.

Meanwhile, Taleban attacks have killed at least 11 Afghan soldiers in Helmand province, including one on the base that was known as Camp Bastion until the British handed it over to Afghan forces last month.

Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said the Taleban had been launching assaults since Thursday on the former UK base, and on what used to be Camp Leatherneck, a US Marine base in the volatile southern province.

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Mr Zwak said the Bastion attack had killed at least six Afghan soldiers and 20 Taleban fighters and wounded ten Afghan soldiers.

An assault there on Friday killed a further five soldiers and wounded seven.

The other attack, a suicide bombing targeting a military base in the province’s Sangin district, killed five soldiers and wounded eight.