KABUL, Afghanistan — Six suicide bombers stormed a USAID compound in northern Afghanistan before dawn Friday, killing at least four people and wounding several others, officials said. At least two of the dead were foreigners.
The brazen attack came on the same day that Gen. David Petraeus landed in the Afghan capital to take command of U.S. and international forces fighting the nearly 9-year-old war. Petraeus arrived from Brussels where he sought to reassure allies that the war against the Taliban was on track despite rising casualties and problems regaining control over key parts of the country.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which began about 3:30 a.m. in Kunduz when a suicide car bomber blew a hole in the wall around a building used by Development Alternatives Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based global consulting company on contract with the United States Agency for International Aid, or USAID. The company is working on governance and community development in the area.
At least five other attackers then ran inside the building, killing or wounding security guards and others inside before dying in a gunbattle with Afghan security forces who raced to the scene.
Afghan authorities said the five were all wearing explosive vests.
Black smoke poured from the windows of the four-story building. The bodies of the victims were found inside amid rubble, pools of blood and broken glass.
Stunned aid workers were led from the scene as NATO troops carried bodies wrapped in black plastic out on stretchers.
Gen. Abdul Razaq Yaqoubi, police chief in Kunduz province, said those killed included an Afghan policeman, an Afghan man who worked as a security guard at the house and two foreigners.
The German Foreign Ministry told The Associated Press in Berlin that a German citizen was killed in the attack. Britain’s foreign ministry said one British national was killed and the other was critically wounded in the attack.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press in Kabul that six suicide bombers attacked a “training centre” for Afghan security forces in Kunduz and killed 55 foreigners. The Taliban often exaggerate their claims.
The attack appeared part of a Taliban campaign against development projects at a time when the U.S. and its allies are trying to bolster civilian programs to shore up the Afghan government.