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Bombing of Kabul restaurant marks beginning of crucial year for Afghan security

On 17 January, 21 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack on a Kabul restaurant ahead of a crucial year for Afghan security.

The attack, which took place on Friday in a Lebanese restaurant popular with foreigners, involved a bomber detonating a vest packed with explosives outside the restaurant before gunmen entered and opened fire inside. Initial reports suggest that there were no survivors apart from a cook who took refuge on the roof until he was rescued by police. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Among those killed were two British citizens along with 11 other foreigners, making it the deadliest attack on foreign nationals in Afghanistan since the conflict began in 2001. Four United Nations staff, including two who worked for UNICEF, were killed in the bombing, which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described as “horrific”.

The head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNMA), Ján Kubiš, said:

“I strongly condemn the targeting of civilians in any form, and in particular, the continued use of suicide bombers.”

Suicide bombers frequently cause large numbers of civilian casualties. In 2012, AOAV found that an average of 23 civilians are killed and injured in each of these type of attacks, almost double the average for other IED types – such as those detonated by remote-control or a timer.

In the first two weeks of January 2014, there have already been at least eight suicide bomb attacks around the world, according to AOAV’s monitoring of English-language media reports. Attacks took place in Iraq, Somalia and Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan

Ahead of the planned withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan there is considerable concern that Afghan security forces will struggle to cope with a Taliban resurgence and that civilian casualty figures will increase amidst escalating violence.