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September 26, 2017

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13 foreigners among 21 killed in Kabul attack

KABUL--A total of 21 people, including 13 foreigners, died in a Taliban suicide assault on a popular restaurant in central Kabul, police said Saturday, as witnesses gave horrific accounts of the carnage.

Desperate customers tried to hide under tables as one attacker detonated his suicide vest at the fortified entrance to the Taverna du Liban and two other militants stormed inside and opened fire.

Among the dead were two Americans, two British citizens, two Canadians, a senior International Monetary Fund (IMF) official from Lebanon, and the restaurant's Lebanese owner, who reportedly died after he tried to fire back at the attackers.

A Danish member of the European police mission in Afghanistan and a Russian U.N. political officer also died in the Friday evening massacre, which was the deadliest attack on foreign civilians since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.

The United Nations said that four of its staff had died, though it did not release their nationalities.

"We were in the kitchen, and suddenly we heard a big bang and everywhere was dark," Atiqullah, 27, an assistant chef, told AFP by telephone as he attended a funeral for three colleagues.

"We used a backdoor to go to the second floor. Our manager went downstairs to see what was happening. We heard some gunshots and later found out that he had been shot dead.

"Afterwards, the police took us back into the restaurant to identify victims. We identified three guards who were killed.

"There was blood everywhere, on tables, on chairs, apparently the attackers had shot people from a very close range."

Venue Popular with Afghans and Expats

The Taverna has been a regular dining spot for foreign diplomats, aid workers and Afghan officials and businessmen, and was busy with customers on Friday, the weekly holiday in Afghanistan.

Like many restaurants in Kabul it ran strict security checks, with diners patted down by armed guards and passing through at least two steel doors before gaining entry.

On Saturday morning, the Taverna's battered sign was still in place, hanging over the ruined remains of the entrance door. Several badly damaged cars also remained at the scene.

"Our latest figure is 21 killed, including 13 foreigners and eight Afghans," Kabul police chief Mohammad Zahir told AFP.

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