Islamic State has claimed responsibility for an attack on Save the Children office in Afghanistan’s eastern city of Jalalabad on Wednesday, which left two dead and 14 injured.
The group’s news agency Amaq said the operation involved a car bomb and three other attacks that targeted British, Swedish, and Afghani government institutions in Jalalabad, without providing further details.
After blowing up a car outside the British charity’s compound in Jalalabad city on Wednesday, the attackers used a rocket propelled grenade to storm the complex.
"I can hear two attackers… They are looking for us," an employee hiding inside the building told a friend in a WhatsApp message. "Pray for us… inform the security forces."
Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the regional Nangarhar governor, said the attack started at 9.10 am (4.40am GMT) – shortly after staff would have arrived at the office.
"A group of armed men then entered the compound. So far 11 wounded people have been brought to hospitals," Khogyani added.
Mohammad Amin, who was inside the compound when the attackers launched the raid, said from his hospital bed that he heard "a big blast".
"We ran for cover and I saw a gunman hitting the main gate with an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) to enter the compound. I jumped out of the window," Amin said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Jalalabad attack.
A Save the Children spokesman said: "We are devastated at the news that our Save the Children office in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, came under attack this morning as armed men entered the building about 9am today, local time.
"Our primary concern is for the safety and security of our staff. We are awaiting further information and cannot comment further at this time."
Afghan TV news channels showed a thick plume of black smoke rising above the compound and what appears to be at least one vehicle on fire outside the office.
Click Here: Golf special
Another witness said: "It might be a complex attack. I am hearing gun fire from inside Save the Children compound."
Attack is latest on foreign aid groups in Afghanistan
The attack on Save the Children is the latest violence to strike a foreign aid group in war-torn Afghanistan.
The International Committee of the Red Cross announced in October it would "drastically" reduce its presence in the country after seven employees were killed in attacks last year.
UNAMA looking into reports of attack outside @save_children #Jalalabad. Attacks directed at civilians or aid organizations are clear violations of international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes. pic.twitter.com/8IlfR3KDGo
— UNAMA News (@UNAMAnews) January 24, 2018
The decision by the charity, which has been working in Afghanistan for over three decades, underlined the growing dangers for aid workers, who have increasingly become casualties of a surge in militant violence in recent years.
Assault comes after luxury hotel stormed in capital
Wednesday’s assault comes days after Taliban gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in the Afghan capital, killing at least 22 people, mostly foreigners.
Insurgents armed with Kalashnikovs and suicide vests attacked the landmark Intercontinental Hotel, going from room to room searching for foreigners during the more than 12-hour ordeal.
The last major attack in Jalalabad was on December 31 when an explosion at a funeral killed 18 mourners and wounded another 13. There was no claim of responsibility.
Province is stronghold for Islamic State fighters
Nangarhar, a restive province bordering Pakistan, is a stronghold for the Islamic State (Isil) group and also has a significant Taliban presence.
US and Afghan forces have been carrying out ground and air operations against Isil fighters in Nangarhar.
While Afghan security forces are conducting most of the fighting against Isil and Taliban militants, US troops operate alongside them in a training capacity and are frequently on the front lines.