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Gunmen Attack Save The Children Office In Afghanistan

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In Afghanistan today, gunmen stormed an office of Save the Children. It's an attack on an aid group. At least three people have been killed. Twenty-five more are injured. Jennifer Glasse is a reporter based in Afghanistan. She's on the line.

Where exactly did this happen?

JENNIFER GLASSE: Steve, it happened in Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan.

INSKEEP: In eastern Afghanistan - so we're talking about one of the more insecure parts of the country. And what happened?

GLASSE: Well, about 9:30 this morning local time, a car bomb was exploded outside the offices of Save the Children in Jalalabad. A massive bomb, Steve - IT set a bunch of cars alight. And then a number of gunmen - four gunmen, we believe - stormed into the offices of Save the Children. And for more than eight hours, they exchanged gunfire, threw grenades and fought with Afghan security forces while 46 people hid in the safe room in the basement of the building.

INSKEEP: Some people here are going to be stunned by this just because the group is called Save the Children. Is this normal to have this kind of attack on an aid group?

GLASSE: We have seen increasing attacks on aid groups here in Afghanistan over the last couple of years. Last year, the International Red Cross, which has operated here in Afghanistan for more than three decades, actually closed two clinics and vastly cut back its operations here because seven of its staff members were killed over the course of 2017 and a number of others were abducted. And indeed they decided that it was really just getting too risky to carry out aid operations here. And a lot of the NGOs are really reconsidering whether they can work here, who they can trust.

They depend on the local communities to allow them to come in and do their work, and now the local communities can't really assure their safety. And that's becoming a real problem. And this is a country, Steve, that really depends on international aid. It depends on these kinds of organizations. Save the Children (inaudible) they helped 1.4 million children in Afghanistan, and it has suspended operations.

INSKEEP: So is this the Taliban's way or someone's way of undermining the government?

GLASSE: It is. It is not the Taliban. The Taliban explicitly denied any responsibility. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility on its website, but it certainly does put pressure on the Afghan government. Now, President Ghani issued a statement saying this actually shows that the military operations are putting these groups under pressure, and that's why they're attacking these soft targets. But that's a very hard sell to the Afghan people who will suffer without the help from these aid organizations.

INSKEEP: Does it feel to you like the insurgency - or maybe we should say the various insurgencies, 'cause I know there are various groups - that the insurgencies are growing worse?

GLASSE: I think security certainly is a big concern here. The Afghan military and police and security services are taking punishing casualties. You might remember, over the weekend, there was a terrible attack here in Kabul on a very prominent hotel that killed 22 people, including more than one American. We're certainly more careful here. Kidnapping is a concern. And for regular Afghans in the countryside where the fighting has intensified, it's certainly very difficult.

INSKEEP: Jennifer Glasse reporting in Kabul. Thanks.

GLASSE: Good to talk to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.