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Seventeen people were wounded, including at least one foreigner, an Italian woman who was an employee of the United Nations affiliate, Afghan police officials said. A Nepalese Gurkha security guard stationed nearby was killed along with an Afghan police officer, according to Gen. Mohammad Zahir, the head of the Kabul police’s criminal investigation division.
The head of the United Nations in Kabul, Jan Kubis, condemned the attack, which he said was centered on the International Organization for Migration. All United Nations staff members have been accounted for, he said.
The Kabul police chief, Gen. Mohammad Ayoub Salangi, said there were five attackers, and one blew himself up at the gate of the United Nations’ Compound A, the main facility for the mission’s offices and housing, in the central Shar-e-Naw neighborhood, which was near the compound for the International Organization for Migration.
The four other attackers, he said, were disguised as women in burqas and had taken refuge in a house nearby. Police had killed two of them, but two were still fighting back, he said earlier Friday. “We will soon end this fight,” General Salangi said.
Later, police estimates revised the number of attackers to six, with one still alive and holding out late Friday.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, claimed the intended target was a guesthouse used by the Central Intelligence Agency, which a coalition official said was not true.
The first explosion, apparently the suicide vest of an attacker, was so loud that it was heard miles away, and witnesses reported hearing many more explosions from inside the compound where the insurgents were holed up, apparently because they were firing rocket-propelled grenades and were still fighting police hours later.
Adil Murad, 28, said he was at the Zaid Kabul restaurant across from the scene when he saw four armed men running toward the United Nations compound. He said the restaurant, owned by a friend, had security cameras and they monitored the gunmen’s progress as they vaulted over a wall of one compound. The first explosion was heard shortly later.
Authorities ordered lockdowns of embassies and international facilities throughout the city, and at a United Nations compound across the street from the apparent site of the attack, workers were ordered to take refuge in blast shelters.
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the American military commander in Afghanistan, said that “prompt and effective action” by Afghan officials had saved “the lives of other innocent Afghans and members of the international community.” Another coalition official said the Afghans did not ask for coalition help in containing the attack.
Mr. Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, who was reached by telephone, claimed that a squad of suicide attackers was targeting a guesthouse used by the C.I.A. “to train Afghan spies.” He said the initial blast was a suicide car bomb, which destroyed the facility’s outer wall, allowing other attackers armed with light and heavy weapons to storm inside. “We believe there are massive casualties inflicted on the C.I.A.,” he said.
In 2009, insurgents invaded a United Nations guesthouse, killing 11 people; the episode prompted the agency to tighten the security of its living quarters for international staff.