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Oct 28th, 2009

Kabul Escape: U.N. Workers Scramble Over Roofs

Image: An injured man is carried by police
An injured man is carried by police following an attack at Bekhtar guesthouse in Kabul, where five U.N. staff were killed. (Photo credit: Romeo Gacad / AFP — Getty Images)

October 28, 2009

KABUL — There was no way out for Miles Robertson, working in Afghanistan as a U.N. elections adviser. He was awakened by gunfire and feared he and his wife would be taken hostage.

First, the lanky Australian started to step onto the balcony of the guest house where he and dozens of other U.N. staffers were staying, but shots drove him back inside. Finally, the room filling with smoke and fearing he and his wife would not survive, they placed moist towels over their faces, climbed out a window and scrambled over the roof until they could jump to safety.

Taliban militants wearing suicide vests and armed with guns and grenades had attacked the three-story residential hotel at dawn Wednesday in what their spokesman said was a bid to derail the Nov. 7 runoff election. After a two-hour battle, 11 people were dead — including five U.N. staff members and the three attackers. One of the dead was American, the U.S. Embassy said. …

The attack began shortly before 6 a.m. when three gunmen wearing green police uniforms broke into the guest house, home to the largest concentration of U.N. staffers working on the election. The crackle of gunfire echoed across the city and explosions set fire to the building, filling the lobby and the upper floors with thick smoke. …


Taliban attack (NBC Today, Oct. 28, 2009) — Gunmen with automatic weapons and suicide bombs storm a guest house being used by U.N. staff in Kabul. (05:16)

U.N. staff were evacuated to Dubai for counseling, the U.N. said. …

About a mile away from the guest house, one rocket struck the “outer limit” of the presidential palace but caused no casualties, presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada said.

Two more rockets slammed into the grounds of the expensive Serena Hotel, favored by many foreigners. One failed to explode but filled the hotel lobby with smoke, forcing guests and employees to flee to the basement, according to British freelance journalist Kate Holt, who was staying in the hotel. …

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility in a telephone call to the AP, saying three militants with suicide vests, grenades and machine guns carried out the guest house assault.

The Interior Ministry said there were three attackers and all were killed.

The attack followed a warning last week by the Taliban, which threatened anyone working on the runoff election between [President Hamid] Karzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. “This is our first attack,” Mujahid said.

U.N. spokesman Adrian Edwards said five U.N. staff were killed and nine other U.N. employees were wounded. Afghan police and U.N. officials said 11 people in all were killed, including the U.N. staff, three attackers, two security guards and an Afghan civilian.

Opinion poll (NBC Today, Oct. 28, 2009) – The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows more Americans support a troop surge in Afghanistan. NBCs Chuck Todd breaks down the results. (03:39)

The dead included the brother-in-law of one of Afghanistan’s most powerful governors, Gul Agha Sherzai. The man was killed by a stray bullet as he watched the gunfight from a nearby house, according to provincial spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai.

Edwards said the U.N. would have to evaluate “what this means for our work in Afghanistan.” …

The Aug. 19, 2003, truck bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, which killed 22 people, prompted the U.N. to pull out of Iraq for several years.

Afghans are to vote in a second-round election after U.N.-backed auditors threw out nearly a third of Karzai’s votes from the Aug. 20 ballot, determining widespread fraud. That pushed Karzai’s totals below the 50 percent threshold needed for a first-round victory in the 36-candidate field. Dozens of people were killed in Taliban attacks during the August balloting, helping drive down turnout.


4/22/10 Update

American’s death in Kabul attack investigated

Former UN officials say Afghan police were involved in killing


Afghan police allegedly involved in UN attack (NBC Nightly News, April 22, 2010) – New questions are being raised about how one young American died during a brazen attack by the Taliban on a UN guesthouse and an international hotel close to the Presidential Palace in Kabul. NBC’s Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel reports. (04:11)


100 Killed in Pakistan as Clinton Arrives

Image: Residents, rescue workers and security officials gather after a bomb explosion in Peshawar
Residents, rescue workers and security officials sort through the rubble after a bomb explosion in Peshawar, Pakistan, on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009. (Photo credit: Fayaz Aziz / Reuters)

October 28, 2009

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A car bomb struck a busy market in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing 100 people — mostly women and children — as visiting Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged U.S. support for Islamabad’s campaign against Islamic militants.

More than 200 people were wounded in the blast in the main northwestern city of Peshawar, the deadliest in a surge of attacks by suspected insurgents this month. The government blamed militants seeking to avenge an army offensive launched this month against al-Qaida and Taliban in their stronghold close to the Afghan border.

The bombing was the deadliest since explosions hit homecoming festivities for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Karachi in October 2007, killing about 150 people. Bhutto was later slain in a separate attack.

Pakistan bombing coincides with Clinton visit (NBC Nightly News, Oct. 28, 2009) — A car bomb killed scores as a visiting Hillary Clinton pledged support against Islamic militants. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports. (02:52)

Wednesday’s bomb destroyed much of the Mina Bazaar in Peshawar’s old town, a warren of narrow alleys clogged with stalls and shops selling dresses, toys and cheap jewelry that drew many female shoppers and children in the conservative city.

The blast collapsed buildings, including a mosque, and set scores of shops ablaze. The wounded sat amid burning debris and parts of bodies as a huge plume of gray smoke rose above the city. …

Clinton, on her first visit to Pakistan as secretary of state, was a three-hour drive away in the capital, Islamabad, when the blast took place.

Speaking to reporters, she praised the army’s anti-Taliban offensive in South Waziristan and offered U.S. support. …

City bombed three times this month

Peshawar, the economic hub of the northwest and the seat of the provincial government, has long been a favorite target of militants who control large parts of territory to the north in tribal regions near the Afghanistan border.

Extremism has flourished there since it was used as a staging ground in the 1980s for U.S.-funded fighters preparing to battle the Soviet-installed regime in Afghanistan. …

Three bombs have exploded in Peshawar this month, including another one that killed more than 50 people, part of a barrage of at least 10 major attacks across the country that have killed some 250 people.

Most have targeted security forces, but some bombs have gone off in public places, apparently to undercut support for the army’s assault on the border and expose the weakness of the government.

The Taliban have warned Pakistan that they would stage more attacks if the army does not end a new ground offensive in the South Waziristan tribal region, where the military has dispatched some 30,000 troops to flush out insurgents.

South Waziristan is a major base for the Pakistani Taliban and other foreign militants.

North West Frontier Province Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain blamed the militants for Wednesday’s attack.

“We are hitting them at their center of terrorism, and they are hitting back targeting Peshawar,” he said. “This is a tough time for us. We are picking up the bodies of our women and children, but we will follow these terrorists and eliminate them.”


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — October 28, 2008

Write-in Campaign: Day 10

One year ago today, on the 10th day of my write-in campaign against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, I reported that the University of Minnesota newspaper, the Minnesota Daily, editorialized that in view of Bachmann’s assertion on “Hardball” with Chris Matthews that Barack Obama might have “anti-American views” and that the media should investigate which members of Congress also hold anti-American views, students should make campaign contributions to Bachmann’s Democratic opponent Elwyn Tinklenberg or to her Republican write-in challenger Aubrey Immelman.

15 Responses to “Afghan War Closes in on Kabul”
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