Afghan official: Suicide bombers attack foreigners

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Four gunmen attacked the offices and guesthouse of a U.S.-based charity, setting off a suicide car bomb and opening fire with assault rifles in a residential neighborhood of Afghanistan's capital Kabul on Friday. An Afghan child was killed in the crossfire as police battled the attackers.

Several foreign nationals working for the charity, Roots of Peace, were in the building at the time of the attack but were able to flee, the group's director Mohammed Uzman Sharifi told The Associated Press. Foreign children were seen being taken out of the building.

Deputy Interior Minister Mohammed Ayub Salangi said a three hour standoff ended with all four attackers being killed. One died when he exploded his vehicle at the entrance to the compound. The other three were killed by police. An Afghan child who happened to be nearby was killed during the battle, he said.

Roots of Peace charity specializes in agricultural development and is advising Afghanistan's Agriculture Ministry. The group's director did not identify the nationalities of the workers inside the building, but Salangi said at least three were believed to be Americans.

Members of the Afghan National Police rapid reaction force, wearing helmets and bulletproof vests, cordoned off the area.

Witnesses say several houses on fire, possibly from the car bomb blast.

Mohammed Sadi, a resident in the area, said the force of the explosion rattled buildings several blocks away and broke windows in his house. "Then gunfire started and the police blocked all the roads," he said.

The upscale neighborhood is home to some of the candidates in next month's elections for president and provincial council. It didn't appear that they were the targets, although the Taliban have stepped up their attacks ahead of the April 5 polling

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said insurgents attacked a "guest house of foreigners and a church of foreigners." His claim could not be immediately confirmed.

"Attacks will continue and we will keep on killing foreigners," he said in a statement to the media.