Kabul Restaurant Bombing Leaves 21 Dead Including Americans, UN, IMF Staff

A bombing in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, left 21 people dead including foreigners on Friday, the US Embassy announced Saturday.

Two American college employees were among the dead in the bombing and gun fire attack.

A suicide bomber detonated himself at the entrance of a popular Lebanese restaurant, frequented by foreigners, in Kabul on Friday evening.

Two armed men rushed the building and opened fire on diners. Many of them westerners working in the Afghan capital, said the Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Ayoub Salangi.

Of the 21 killed, 13 were foreigners including four women, the Foreign Minister said. The eight Afghan killed by the suicide bomber include one woman. Two others were wounded.

The American University of Afghanistan said that the two Americans killed were employees, one of which had recently joined the political science faculty. The second victim was a member of the student affairs staff. The names have not been released.

In a statement, University President Michael Smith said:
"We are devastated by the news, 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. Smith added:
"Such senseless violence flies in the face of the sentiments of our students and the Afghan people who share our grief. 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."
The victims of the Kabul restaurant bombing also include four United Nations staff members and the top representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Afghanistan.

Great Britain and Canada also confirmed they had each lost two citizens and Denmark said one of its citizens was also killed.

After the initial bombing, gunfire was heard over the next hour. The two gunmen inside the Lebanese restaurant, located in Kabul's diplomatic enclave, were shot dead by police, an Afghan official said.

The bombing at the Kabul restaurant comes as most foreign forces are preparing to leave Afghanistan this year and there are fears that the Taliban will intensify its violent campaign ahead of elections in April to find a successor for Hamid Karzai.

President Karzai is still debating whether he will allow a small number of troops to stay behind and help Afghan security forces. If no agreement is reached, local forces will have to fend off insurgents on their own.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the Kabul bombing, saying it was in retaliation for an earlier coalition airstrike which killed a number of Afghan civilians in a village north of the capital.

In a statement the insurgent group said it had chosen the popular restaurant in Kabul because it is "frequented by high-ranking foreigners" and it served alcohol.

The Kabul bombing is one of the deadliest attacks on Western civilians since the start of the war in 2001, and took place in one of the most secure districts in the city, close to embassies and military bases.