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Taliban deny role in attack on Red Cross Afghan offices

KABUL — The Taliban denied responsibility for this week’s attack on the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan, noting their previous support for the humanitarian group and condemning the action.

The attack on the agency’s Jalalabad offices shocked the Red Cross, which has worked in Afghanistan for roughly 30 years without having been the target of a concerted assault at the hands of insurgents. The Taliban has praised the group for its neutral stance in the conflict, instructing its fighters to not harm Red Cross workers.

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“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants to clarify to everyone that it was neither behind the May 29 attack on the ICRC office in Jalalabad city nor does it support such attacks,” said a Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi.

No groups have taken responsibility for the assault, which took place Wednesday evening when a suicide bomber blasted open the gates of the agency’s offices, killing a security guard and allowing two attackers to storm the building.

The Taliban statement left many asking: If not the Taliban, then who?

Some suspect that the Taliban may have been behind the attack but is reluctant to accept blame, having crossed a line with an organization that has passed messages from family to its imprisoned soldiers and cared for the wounded no matter their political stripe.

It is also possible that another faction of the Taliban that does not operate under the umbrella of the Quetta Shura, as the main leadership council is called, was behind the attack. Observers have noted that the Taliban is a fractious organization, and that decisions on targets often fall to local field commanders who do not answer to the top of the organization.

What is clear is that the attack has placed the organization in a state of uncertainty. With more than 1,800 employees in 17 locations, Red Cross operations in Afghanistan are among the agency’s largest.

After the attack, the group suspended operations for two days, but plans to resume some of its work starting Saturday.

“We depend on security guarantees from the armed groups in this conflict,” said Robin Waudo, a Red Cross spokesman. “We have to do a rethink of how we operate. We are trying to understand why we were attacked and who is responsible.”

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