, KABUL, Nov 30 – The latest Taliban strike in Kabul killed a South African father running an education charity and his two teenage children, officials and the group said Sunday, as the city police chief resigned after a spate of attacks.
With the US-led NATO war against the Taliban nearing its end, the insurgents have targeted foreign guesthouses, embassy vehicles, US troops and a female member of parliament in recent weeks.
Partnership in Academics and Development (PAD), a small California-based education group, posted a message on its website saying three people had been killed in Saturday’s attack on its compound.
“The attack… by multiple gunmen included one who detonated a personal explosive device killing three and injuring other staff members,” the website said.
“In the midst of this unprovoked attack, Partnership in Academics and Development remains committed to providing educational resources for Afghan citizens.”
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed on Twitter that the compound was that of a secret Christian missionary group.
General Zahir Zahir stepped down as Kabul police chief shortly after he confirmed that three South Africans — a father and his two children — and an Afghan citizen were killed in the attack on Saturday evening.
“The attackers first shot dead the director as they entered the building,” Zahir said at a press conference.
A family website set up in South Africa in 2003 gave personal details, with birth dates suggesting that the son was 17 and daughter was 15.
Friends in Pretoria and Kabul said the family were deeply Christian but were not missionaries, and that the children’s mother was returning home from a clinic where she worked in the city when the attack happened.
Many international aid workers, diplomats and consultants work in Kabul, but very few are accompanied by their families.
NATO troop numbers in Afghanistan peaked at 130,000 in 2010 but have fallen rapidly since then. Their combat mission ends altogether on December 31.
Fears are growing that the declining international presence is already fuelling the Islamist insurgency.
The mission will be replaced by a 12,500-strong force supporting the Afghan army and police, who have taken over responsibility for thwarting the Taliban.
– Rising violence –
In Saturday’s attack, a neighbouring building was engulfed in flames as security forces took three hours to hunt down the militants.
On Thursday, the Taliban struck at another foreign guesthouse, wounding a guard, and a suicide bomber targeted a British embassy vehicle in a blast that killed six people.
Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanakzai told AFP that Zahir had resigned on Sunday.
“General Zahir Zahir told the interior ministry he no longer wanted to continue his job. The minister has accepted his resignation,” Stanakzai told AFP.
Militants in the southern province of Helmand this week got inside Camp Bastion, a major NATO base handed over only last month.
At least five Afghan soldiers died in the fighting before order was restored on Saturday, Ghulam Farooq Parwani, a senior Afghan army commander at the camp, told AFP.
Camp Bastion was a key airfield for US-led NATO operations in the Taliban heartlands of the south.
President Ashraf Ghani, who came to power in September, has vowed to bring peace to Afghanistan after decades of conflict, saying he is open to talks with the Taliban who ruled Kabul from 1996 to 2001.
Ghani finally emerged as president after signing a power-sharing deal with his poll rival Abdullah Abdullah.
The two men claimed to have won fraud-tainted elections in a stand-off that caused political paralysis in Kabul and fanned worsening violence nationwide.
Ghani was due to given a televised address on Sunday evening to announce that a deal had been reached over cabinet positions in the new government.
Ghani and Abdullah will fly to Brussels on Monday for NATO meetings and to London on Wednesday for a donor conference designed to showcase the “national unity government” and demonstrate continuing international support for Afghanistan.
Afghan soldiers and police have endured soaring casualties on the battlefield, with more than 4,600 killed this year as they take on the Taliban with less assistance from the US military.