In bold attack, Taliban kill 9 in hotel, shooting Afghan journalist, wife, children in head

The Associated Press

An Afghan policeman patrols the entrance of the Serena hotel in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, March 21, 2014. Four men with pistols stuffed in their socks attacked the hotel in Kabul on Thursday, opening fire in a restaurant and killing nine people, including four foreigners, officials said. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

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Ahmad also ran the Kabul Pressistan media company and joined AFP in 2003 to become the agency's senior reporter in Kabul. He covered all aspects of life, war and politics in his native Afghanistan, according to a statement by the news agency.

A U.S. official confirmed that an American citizen was killed in the attack. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the death had not been made public.

One of the Canadians who died was identified as Roshan Thomas, who with her family had dedicated years to helping Afghan children. Canadian Sen. Mobina Jaffer said Thomas and her husband built a school in Afghanistan and played frequent host to young girls in need of a helping hand. Thomas died months before welcoming her first grandchild to the world, Jaffer said. She is survived by her husband and three adult children.

The second Canadian was Zeenab Kassam, a 37-year-old from Calgary who had spent the last year and a half volunteering as an English teacher at a school funded by the Aga Khan Foundation.

Luis Maria Duarte, 39, a former Paraguayan diplomat and Mideast scholar who was in Kabul to be an election observer, also died in the attack. Duarte was working for the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute.

His father, also named Luis Maria Duarte, said NDI's director called him Thursday night to break the news. "He told me, 'Sir, we have lost our best man.' I felt very bad, so they had to send me to a hospital," he said Friday in an interview with Radio Cardinal in Paraguay.

"While events like this highlight the security challenges that remain in parts of Afghanistan, it only strengthens our resolve to combat the scourge of terrorism in all its forms," Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement. Baird said both Canadians killed were development workers.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the U.N. Security Council both condemned the attack. Members of the Security Council reiterated their serious concern at the threats posed by the Taliban and other militants and "underlined the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice," according to a statement.

The latest assault is a new blow to government efforts to show security forces can fight the insurgents as foreign combat troops prepare to withdraw by the end of this year. The Taliban have vowed to use violence to disrupt next month's presidential election, which promises to result in the first democratic transfer of power since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Islamic militant movement from power.

Claiming responsibility for Thursday's attack, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said it shows that "our people, if they decide to attack any place, they can do it."

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Associated Press writers Mirwais Khan in Kandahar, Rob Gillies in Toronto, Pedro Servin in Asuncion, Paraguay, and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.

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