JALALABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Insurgents attacked the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Wednesday, killing an Afghan guard in the second major assault on a humanitarian organization in less than a week.
Seven staff members, believed to be the total number of foreign workers at the ICRC in Jalalabad, were rescued by Afghan police during the attack, which involved a suicide bomber and three gunmen, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.
Police carried away the blood-soaked body of the guard who was shot dead at the beginning of the assault, which started when the suicide bomber detonated explosives at the ICRC gate at 5:30 p.m. (1300 GMT).
The attack was the first of its kind on the strictly neutral ICRC in Afghanistan since it started operations in the country in 1987. ICRC water engineer Ricardo Munguia was shot dead in Afghanistan in 2003.
The ICRC’s $90 million-a-year operations in Afghanistan are the group’s biggest in the world. Some 1,800 ICRC staff work on projects ranging from providing orthopedic limbs to the war wounded to visiting militants in Afghan jails.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but concerns are mounting over how the 352,000-strong Afghan security forces will cope with an intensifying insurgency once most foreign troops leave by the end of next year.
The attack came less than a week after Taliban insurgents attacked the office of the International Organization for Migration in Kabul, killing at least three civilians and injuring four foreign aid workers.
The ICRC maintains strict neutrality in protecting civilians in armed conflict and has contact with both sides. The ICRC’s medical facility across the border in Peshawar in Pakistan has treated wounded insurgents.
ICRC’s Afghanistan chief Gherardo Pontrandolfi was quoted by Indian media last week as saying he believed the Taliban respected the ICRC in Afghanistan.
Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva; Editing by Alison Williams