KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban attackers struck twice in the heart of Kabul on Thursday, killing six people including a British citizen and driving home their message that security in the Afghan capital cannot be guaranteed as the U.S. and its allies draw down their combat forces.
In the first attack, a massive car bomb targeted a British Embassy convoy in the east of the city, killing a British Embassy security guard and an embassy interpreter, as well as four other Afghan civilians, according to a statement from the International Security Assistance Force. Police said 35 other people were wounded.
In the evening, a suicide attack on a foreign guest house near the International Relief & Development organization compound was followed by gunmen storming in, according to the chief of Kabul police, Gen. Mohammad Zahir. The Virginia-based relief agency, which works closely with the U.S. Agency for International Development, is located in an area where there is a concentration of embassies, nongovernmental organizations and restaurants frequented by foreigners.
Deputy Interior Minister Mohammed Ayub Salangi later said, in addition to the suicide bomber, there were two gunmen both of whom were killed. A Nepalese guard at the compound was wounded, but no other foreigners were injured or killed.
However, a few hours later, explosions and gunfire could again be heard from the same general area and a helicopter was flying over the neighborhood shooting flares.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks, the latest in a string of attacks in the capital against foreign military and civilian targets.
In the morning attack, a Toyota Corolla packed with explosives pulled alongside a British convoy in the Qalai Wazir neighborhood, according to an Afghan police official.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed that a British national member of the civilian security team at the embassy and an Afghan national working for the embassy were killed. He said in a statement that a second British member of the security team was injured.
“I condemn this appalling attack on innocent civilians supporting our diplomatic activity,” Hammond said. “This outrage brings home to us once again the courage and perseverance of the people of Afghanistan and members of the international community who support them, who have lived together through decades of conflict.”
ISAF commander Gen. John F. Campbell also condemned the “despicable attack” by the Taliban.
“Those who commit such murderous acts have no place in the future of this country,” he said in a statement.
Witnesses said the explosion was large enough to send the British armored vehicle airborne, tossing the wreckage nearly 40 yards from the initial blast site, while sending shrapnel and broken glass into the various shops and businesses along the Kabul-Jalalabad Road.
At the scene of the evening attack, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi speculated that the Taliban were sending a message that parliament’s approval of key agreements with the United States and NATO regarding the terms of continued international troop presence is “not tolerable.”
“The message they want to send is clear, security is not easy to come by,” Sediqqi said.
On Monday, two U.S. soldiers were killed when a bomb attached to a bicycle struck their convoy as it moved through the same Kabul neighborhood where Thursday’s attack took place.
The Americans were identified late Wednesday by the Department of Defense as Sgt. Maj. Wardell B. Turner, 48, assigned to Headquarters, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Drum, N.Y., and Spc. Joseph W. Riley, 27, assigned to 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
Earlier this month, Taliban fighters attacked the Green Village foreign contractor compound and the offices of Supreme Group logistics company, both located in the same eastern Kabul neighborhood. In both of those strikes, truck bombs were used to breach the compound’s gates before insurgents attempted to overrun the facilities.
The deadliest attack this year took place Sunday, when a suicide bomber struck a volleyball tournament in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan. The blast, which killed 61 people, mostly civilians, was reportedly aimed at high-ranking Afghan Local Police officials who were attending the tournament.
Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.