2 Americans among 21 killed in Kabul restaurant attack

8:26 AM, Jan 18, 2014   |    comments
Afghan security forces investigate the aftermath of Friday's suicide attack and shooting in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Jan. 18.
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Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Two American college employees were among the dead in a bomb and gunfire attack that killed 21 people in Kabul on Friday, the U.S. Embassy said Saturday.

A suicide attacker detonated his explosives at the gate of a restaurant in the evening. Two armed men rushed in and opened fire at patrons, many of them foreigners, said Deputy Interior Minister Mohammed Ayoub Salangi.

The two Americans were American University of Afghanistan employees, the university told CNN Saturday. One had recently joined the faculty of political science. The other has been a member of the student affairs staff.

"We are devastated by the news," university president Michael Smith said in a statement. "Our deepest sympathies go out to the families and to the AUAF community."

The university said it was planning a memorial service and moment of silence.

"Such senseless violence flies in the face of the sentiments of our students and the Afghan people who share our grief," Smith said. "We will pause to honor the courageous service of our colleagues as we continue to provide the high quality university education for which our students are so grateful."

Other fatalities included four U.N. personnel, an International Monetary Fund representative and a British contractor.

Afghan security forces killed the two gunmen in a shootout. The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that one of the U.N. workers was a Russian national.

The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the assault as payback for an airstrike in Parwan province that caused civilian casualties this week.

Thirteen foreign nationals died in the attack at the restaurant near the offices of many nongovernmental organizations, said Hashmat Stanikzai, Kabul police chief spokesman.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon condemned the attack.

Christine Lagarde, the IMF's managing director, posted a statement online mourning the death of her agency's representative in Afghanistan, Wabel Abdallah. The 60-year-old Lebanese national was named to that position in June 2008.

"We at the fund are all devastated," Lagarde said.

Afghanistan continues to be the site of sporadic violence, much of it blamed on militants tied to the Taliban. The terror group ruled the country before the U.S.-led invasion after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The international community has been extensively engaged in Afghanistan for more than a decade both with military troops and NGOs.

Friday night's attack was a "huge shock" to those working there, said Paul Ross, the IMF's mission chief for Afghanistan, but it won't deter them from continuing their work.

"I think that many of the people, like Wabel, are dedicated to trying to help countries develop and prosper," Ross said. "That's really part of their life mission statement. And that's what makes them go to places that are difficult to visit."

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