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Suicide bomber strikes popular Lebanese restaurant in Kabul

Source: Reuters - Fri, 17 Jan 2014 17:02 GMT
Author: Reuters
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An Afghan police officer arrives at the scene of an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, January 17, 2014. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
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* Taliban claims responsibility, says dead are German

* No official confirmation of casualties

* Restaurant popular among expats in Afghan capital

By Jessica Donati and Mirwais Harooni

KABUL, Jan 17 (Reuters) - A suicide bomber blew himself up near a popular Lebanese restaurant frequented by foreigners in the Afghan capital Kabul on Friday and bursts of intense gunfire ensued.

Islamist militant Taliban insurgents immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in the Wazir Akbar Khan district, which hosts many embassies and restaurants catering for expatriates, and said there were fatalities, all German.

There was no official confirmation of casualties of the assault, carried out around dinner time in the heavily fortified district where many wealthy Afghans also live.

"First there was a suicide attack near a restaurant for foreigners where a man detonated his explosives attached to his body, and then possibly one or two insurgents entered the restaurant," a security source said.

"Based on primary reports of this attack a number of high ranking German officials were killed," a Taliban spokesman said shortly after the assault. German diplomats could not be immediately reached for comment.

Gunfire continued for about 20 minutes after the initial blast and the main road leading to the area was cordoned off.

"They're evacuating the restaurant and an operation on the scene is still ongoing," said an international security source.

"I don't know if they got all the gunmen. ... They're evacuating people from the site and the area is cordoned off."

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said the situation was under control but details were still sketchy.

"Two Afghans who were crossing the road are wounded but we do not have accurate reports if there were any casualties inside," he said. Another security source said that a diplomat might have been wounded in the attack.

Foreign forces are preparing to leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014 and President Hamid Karzai is deliberating over whether to allow some U.S. troops to stay to help his nation regain calm and stability after many years of war.

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