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'No possible justification' for Kabul restaurant attack: US

An Afghan policeman stands guard on January 18, 2014 next to the damaged entrance of a Lebanese restaurant that was attacked in Kabul
An Afghan policeman stands guard on January 18, 2014 next to the damaged entrance of a Lebanese restaurant that was attacked in Kabul

The White House on Saturday strongly condemned a Taliban suicide attack on a Kabul restaurant that killed 21 people, including many foreigners working in the country.

"There is no possible justification for this attack, which has killed innocent civilians, including Americans, working every day to help the Afghan people achieve a better future," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

Two Americans were among 13 foreigners killed when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest in the Taverna du Liban, clearing the way for two other militants who stormed into the restaurant and fired on survivors.

Also killed were eight Afghans, Kabul's police chief said.

The dead included employees of the United Nations, the American University, the International Monetary Fund and other organizations.

The US State Department said the IMF's resident representative, Wabel Abdallah, was among those killed.

"With this despicable, targeted attack on innocent civilians, terrorists continue to demonstrate blatant disregard for life and for the peaceful, prosperous future Afghans want and are working so hard to achieve," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

A Taliban spokesman said the attack was to avenge a US airstrike in Parwan province on Tuesday night that President Hamid Karzai said killed seven children and one woman.

The restaurant attack -- the deadliest on foreign civilians since the Taliban were ousted in 2001 -- comes as a US-led NATO force is to withdraw from the country by the end of the year.

Negotiations for a smaller stay-behind US force have stalled.

"The United States commends the quick and skillful response of the Afghan security services in the aftermath of the attack," the White House statement said.

Afghan special forces soldiers stand guard next to the damaged entrance of a Lebanese restaurant that was attacked in Kabul, on January 18, 2014
Afghan special forces soldiers stand guard next to the damaged entrance of a Lebanese restaurant that was attacked in Kabul, on January 18, 2014

"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," it said.

The White House offered condolences to the victims of the attack and their families, and prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured.

Psaki said the United States and its international partners remain "steadfast in our commitment to the people of Afghanistan."

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