Taliban gunmen stormed a Kabul guesthouse used by a US-based aid group and held four foreigners hostage for several hours yesterday, just eight days before Afghanistan holds a presidential election which the militant group has vowed to derail.
The siege of the walled compound, which is also home to a small church, lasted several hours before Afghan security forces killed the last remaining Taliban gunman holed up inside.
At least one Afghan child was killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the building and insurgents forced their way in. There were no casualties among foreigners.
A Reuters witness saw about 20 people being evacuated from the guesthouse in an upmarket residential area of Kabul, many looking frightened and shocked.
"The fight is over. The five attackers are dead," military commander Qadam Shah Shaheem said. "One detonated his car loaded with explosives, three others detonated explosives attached to their bodies inside the building, and one was shot by security forces. All four foreigners are alive and safe now."
Hajji Mohammad Sharif Osmani, the country manager of US aid group, Roots of Peace, which used the guesthouse, confirmed the four hostages were safe.
The attack was a chilling reminder to Afghan voters and foreigners of the kind of assault the Taliban are capable of mounting in the heavily guarded Afghan capital after their leaders ordered fighters to disrupt the election.
Violence has spiralled in Afghanistan in recent weeks with almost daily explosions and gunfights around the country.
Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen attacked an election commission office in Kabul on Tuesday. Last week nine people including an Agence France-Presse journalist and an election observer were killed in an attack on a highly fortified hotel in the capital.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for yesterday's assault.
Afghanistan, a nation of 30 million is holding an election to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who is barred by the constitution from running for another term in office.