The death toll from a Taliban attack on a Kabul restaurant popular with foreigners and affluent Afghans has risen to 21 people, officials said Saturday, in the deadliest violence against foreign civilians in the country since the start of the war nearly 13 years ago.
Two Canadians, senior auditors at the financial services firm Samson & Associates, were among the foreigners killed in Friday's attack on La Taverna du Liban restaurant — which involved a suicide bomber and two gunmen.
Peter McSheffrey, 49, from Ottawa, and Martin Glazer, from Gatineau, Que., have been identified by their employer as the two Canadians killed in the attack. Both worked for consulting firm Samson & Associates.
Robert McSheffrey, Peter's brother, released a statement calling his death "tragic and shocking."
"What makes this particularly difficult for the family is that Peter was a victim of senseless violence against innocent people. Peter loved to travel and was doing meaningful work."
Glazer, an avid cross-country skier and cyclist, had been with the company for nine years. The Glazer family released this statement:
"He took pride in the work that he did, contributing to Canada's efforts to bring about peace and security in Afghanistan by helping to ensure that development assistance money went to those it was intended to assist. His commitment to his profession and bravery is demonstrated by his frequent business trips to the region."
Company president Pierre Samson said they had been in the country for less than a week, working for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada and overseeing an audit. They were due back in Canada next week.
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"Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms the targeted, cowardly terrorist attack today on a restaurant in Kabul," Foreign Minister John Baird said in a statement issued shortly after the attack on the Lebanese restaurant.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in reprisal for an Afghan military operation earlier in the week against insurgents in eastern Parwan province, which the insurgents claimed killed many civilians. The Taliban frequently provide exaggerated casualty figures.
"The target of the attack was a restaurant frequented by high ranking foreigners," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in an emailed statement. He said the attack targeted a place "where the invaders used to dine with booze and liquor in the plenty."
He described the "revenge attack" as having delivered a "heavy admonitory blow to the enemy which they shall never forget."
The dead included 13 foreigners and eight Afghans, all civilians. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said late Saturday that three Americans were killed. Previously, those identified included two U.S. citizens working for the American University of Afghanistan and a victim identified by the UN as Basra Hassan, a Somali-American working as a nutrition specialist for UNICEF.
3 UN employees, IMF official killed
Others identified were two Britons — development specialist Dharmender Singh Phangura and close protection officer Simon Chase — two Lebanese, a Danish police officer, a Russian, and a Malaysian.
Phangura, who along with the Malaysian worked as an adviser for Adam Smith International, was to run as a Labour Party candidate in upcoming elections for the European Parliament.
Also among the dead were the International Monetary Fund's representative, Khanjar Wabel Abdallah of Lebanon; Nasreen Khan, a UNICEF health specialist from Pakistan, and Vadim Nazarov, a Russian who was the chief political affairs officer at the UN Mission in Afghanistan. Nazarov was one of the UN's most experienced officials, fluent in the country's languages and with experience dating back to the 1980s.
The restaurant's Lebanese owner, Kamal Hamade, was also killed.
The attack was condemned by the UN Security Council, NATO, the White House and the European Union.
At least four people were wounded and about eight Afghans, mostly the kitchen staff, survived.
Police shot and killed the two gunmen inside the restaurant.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office has not yet condemned the attack.
During the operation last Wednesday in eastern Parwan province, Afghan officials said that Taliban fighters opened fire on an Afghan commando unit trying to capture an insurgent leader in his home. After opening fire on the Afghan soldiers, killing one of their American advisers, the team called the U.S.-led coalition for air support.
The governor of Parwan, Abdul Basir Salangi, said a Taliban leader, three of his family members and five civilians in a neighbouring home, from which insurgents were also firing on the Afghan commandos, died in the ensuing combat. He added that seven Taliban fighters were also killed.
Insurgents have frequently targeted foreign interests around the country and in Kabul.
The deadliest previous attack against foreign civilians was in Sept. 8, 2012, when nine civilian employees of a private aviation company were killed in a suicide attack happened near Kabul airport. They included eight South Africans and a Kyrgyz.
The Taliban have stepped up a campaign of violence in recent months after foreign forces handed over control of security for the country to the Afghan army and police ahead of their full withdrawal by the end of 2014.