American Aid Worker for U.N. Is Killed in Afghan Capital

The killing of the United Nations employee underscores the growing threat to aid workers at a time Afghanistan is in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

An American national working for the United Nations in Afghanistan was killed and two others were wounded in a blast targeting a U.N. vehicle in Kabul on Sunday, officials said, underscoring a growing threat to aid workers.

The attack led U.N. agencies in Afghanistan to impose lockdowns on Monday, while other major international organizations restricted their movements as a precaution. Officials said the U.N. also canceled flights, even though many smaller aid organizations rely on air travel to get to parts of the country not accessible by roads increasingly plagued by fighting.

The latest attack further complicates humanitarian work at a time of dire need in the country and as a harsh winter looms. The U.N. estimates that about one million Afghans are “on the move,” having been either internally displaced by the intensifying conflict or because they are refugees in need of humanitarian assistance.

“It is with profound sadness that the U.N. family in Afghanistan confirms the killing tonight of a colleague, as well as injuries to two others, when a U.N.-marked vehicle was attacked in Kabul,” the local U.N. mission said in a statement late on Sunday.

Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, said three other civilians were also wounded in the attack.

While the U.N. statement provided no details on the aid worker who died, Afghan and Western officials said it was an American citizen who was helping the United Nations Development Program manage the payroll for Afghan security forces.

The officials said the cause of the blast was likely a magnetic bomb that had been attached to the roof of the armored vehicle. Photos from the scene showed the roof having been blown apart.

United Nations vehicles in the northern province of Panjshir recently came under gunfire, but no one was hurt in that case, officials said.

The attack comes at a peculiar moment in the Afghan capital, as the number of large and high-profile assaults has dropped in recent weeks, with officials crediting a recent prisoner swap with the Taliban for the dip in such violence. But smaller, more targeted attacks, have been on the rise, security officials said.

Over the past month, nearly a dozen high-profile assassinations or attempted assassinations targeting political or military figures have been reported in Kabul, either by magnetic bombs attached to vehicles or assassins riding on the backs of motorcycles. One of the latest targeted killings took the life of Waheed Muzhda, a high-profile pro-Taliban analyst who was slain outside his home by men on motorbikes.

The uptick has raised fears of Kabul becoming like other Afghan cities, such as the southern hub of Kandahar, where a reduction in large-scale indiscriminate assaults was only replaced by a sustained campaign of target killings.