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Two Americans Killed by Attacks in Kabul

Kabul, Afghanistan -- (CNN) -- The Obama administration condemned Saturday the Taliban's attack on a Kabul restaurant that killed 21 people, mostly foreigners, as revenge for an airstrike that caused civilian Afghan deaths.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Two victims identified as UNICEF specialists
  • Kabul restaurant was popular Lebanese eatery known as secure
  • Obama administration calls on Taliban to put down their arms and talk peace
  • The Taliban attack targeted a Kabul restaurant near NGO offices, an Afghan official says

Kabul, Afghanistan -- (CNN) -- The Obama administration condemned Saturday the Taliban's attack on a Kabul restaurant that killed 21 people, mostly foreigners, as revenge for an airstrike that caused civilian Afghan deaths.

Among the killed were Americans, Britons, Afghans and United Nations personnel.

"There is no possible justification for this attack, which has killed innocent civilians, including Americans," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a prepared statement. "We call again on the Taliban to put down their arms and begin peace talks, which is the surest way to end the conflict in a peaceful manner.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy said Saturday that two American college employees were among the dead in the bomb and gunfire attack Friday on a Kabul restaurant frequented by foreign workers from nongovernmental organizations.

Four of the people killed were affiliated with the United Nations: three U.N. staff members and a Lebanese national with the International Monetary Fund, said Ari Gaitanis, a U.N. spokesman.

The attack was "a heinous and cowardly act targeting innocent people working for a brighter future for Afghanistan," National Security Adviser Susan Rice said on Twitter.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault as payback for an airstrike in Parwan province that caused civilian casualties this week.

Suicide bombing and gunfire

A suicide attacker detonated his explosives at the gate of the restaurant in the evening. Two armed men rushed in and opened fire at patrons, many of them from overseas, said Deputy Interior Minister Mohammed Ayoub Salangi.

There were 13 foreigners in total among the dead, including four women, the Afghan Interior Ministry said. The eight Afghans killed in the attack included one woman. Two other people were wounded.

The two Americans, who've not yet been named, were American University of Afghanistan employees, the university told CNN on Saturday. One had recently joined the political science faculty. The other was a member of the student affairs staff.

"We are devastated by the news," university President Michael Smith said in a prepared statement. "Our deepest sympathies go out to the families and to the AUAF community."

The university said it was planning a memorial service and moment of silence for the employees killed in the assault on La Taverna du Liban, a popular Lebanese eatery known among expatriates to be one of the more secure establishments in the city.

"Such senseless violence flies in the face of the sentiments of our students and the Afghan people who share our grief," Smith said. "We will pause to honor the courageous service of our colleagues as we continue to provide the high quality university education for which our students are so grateful."

Two British victims of the assault have now been named.

One is Del Singh, a candidate for the upcoming elections for the European Parliament from the southeast of England, a spokesman for the opposition Labour Party said, adding that a full tribute was being arranged.

"Del spent over 10 years carrying out vital work on development projects in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Sudan, Sierra Leone and other countries," Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said. "He dedicated his life to working with people across the world who needed his support," he said.

The Foreign Office named the second victim as Simon Chase, but provided no further information Saturday morning.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Saturday that one of the U.N. workers was a Russian national.

Taliban claim attack as revenge

Afghan security forces killed the two gunmen in a shootout.

The restaurant is near the offices of many nongovernmental organizations, said Hashmat Stanikzai, a Kabul police chief spokesman.

The Afghan interior minister condemned the attack in an online statement, saying "these heinous acts go against the values of Islam and the values of peaceful Afghans. These attacks also demonstrate an extreme level of atrocity by terrorists on innocent and defenseless civilians. "

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the violence, saying through a spokesman such attacks "are completely unacceptable and are in flagrant breach of international humanitarian law."

Among the killed was Vadim Nazarov, a senior political officer with the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, a U.N. website said.

UNICEF identified two employees as part of the death toll: Basra Hassan, a nutrition specialist, and Nasreen Khan, a health specialist.

Christine Lagarde, the IMF's managing director, posted a statement online mourning the death of her agency's representative in Afghanistan, Wabel Abdallah. The 60-year-old Lebanese national was named to that position in June 2008.

"We at the fund are all devastated," Lagarde said.

'Huge shock'

Afghanistan continues to be the site of sporadic violence, much of it blamed on militants tied to the Taliban. The terror group ruled the country before the U.S.-led invasion after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The international community has been extensively engaged in Afghanistan for more than a decade both with military troops and NGOs.

Friday night's attack was a "huge shock" to those working there, said Paul Ross, the IMF's mission chief for Afghanistan, but it won't deter them from continuing their work.

"I think that many of the people, like Wabel, are dedicated to trying to help countries develop and prosper," Ross said. "That's really part of their life mission statement. And that's what makes them go to places that are difficult to visit."

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