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Prospective MEP Del Singh dies in Taliban bomb attack in Kabul
10:11am Saturday 18th January 2014 in News
A leading Southampton politician was one of 21 people killed in a Taliban attack on a Kabul restaurant popular with foreigners and affluent Afghans.
Del Singh, the Labour's Party's prospective MEP candidate for the south east, was among 13 foreigners who died in an assault carried out by a suicide bomber and two gunmen.
Mr Singh, of St Mary's, had more than ten years' experience working with the UN and other organisations in countries such as Afghanistan, Kosovo and Sudan.
The 39-year-old also carried out voluntary work with jobseekers in the south east as well as joining Care International UK and the Labour Friends of Palestine group.
In 2012 the former Cantell School pupil, pictured below, took part in a marathon in Gaza to help raise funds for Palestinian children.
Speaking at the time he said: “All you hear are these horror stories coming out of Gaza about conflict and terrorist attacks but what people forget is that half of the population there are under the age of 16.”
Politicians across the country have paid tribute to Mr Singh following his death in the suicide attack.
Labour MP for Southampton Itchen John Denham said: “He was quite a remarkable individual because he had devoted his career in some of the most difficult and dangerous places in the world working with the United Nations and development organisations including the British Government.
“He'd dedicated his life to trying to bring opportunity and development in these very very difficult places.
“It's a huge loss obviously, we all feel it very strongly in the Labour party and he was a brilliant candidate for European elections, but it will be felt more widely because of the man he was.
“He was warm, friendly, funny, committed - he talked about what he did very naturally - it came naturally to him, there was no side to him, no pretence about what he did.
“It's a terrible shock and a terrible loss of a very very good man.”
Mr Denham said he understood Mr Singh had spent much of the last 10 to 15 years working abroad, but had not spent so much time there in the last year as he prepared to run in the European elections.
Born and raised in Southampton, Mr Singh began his working life in two food production factories in Eastleigh, working alongside his mother.
He went on to gain a business degree and a Masters in European studies.
In 2002-2004 he worked for two years as an advisor to the European Mission to Kosovo, where he helped develop the first economic national plan for the country.
He also managed a community aid and development programme in Sudan as well as working for the UN in Afghanistan and other countries.
Mr Singh had campaigned for Labour at every election since 1992 and is pictured on his website with party leader Ed Milliband.
The website also includes glowing testimonies from leading figures who queued up to back his campaign to become an MEP.
Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead says: “Del has been an extraordinary asset to Labour in Southampton. He's campaigned all year round for myself, Labour councillors and in support of community campaigns across the city.
“And he's a fantastic speaker and educator on issues of international development and justice, making what happens in Europe and across the world accessible, relevant and compelling for local members and constituents.”
Southampton city councillor Jacqui Rayment also praises Mr Singh.
Kabul police chief General Mohammad Zahir Zahir said that the victims of the attack included 13 foreigners and eight Afghans, the majority of whom were civilians.
He said the three attackers, including a suicide bomber and two gunmen, were also killed during Friday's assault on the Lebanese restaurant.
The dead included the head of the International Monetary Fund in Afghanistan and three United Nations staff.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Insurgents have frequently targeted foreign interests around the country and in Kabul.
The assault began with the suicide bomber detonating his explosives at the front door of the restaurant, in an area housing several embassies, non-governmental organisations and the homes and offices of Afghan officials.
As chaos ensued, the two other attackers entered through the kitchen and began shooting. They were later killed by security guards.
The US condemned ''this despicable act of terrorism in the strongest possible terms'', State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
The restaurant, like most places frequented by foreign diplomats, aid workers, journalists and businessmen in the war-weary country, has no signs indicating its location and is heavily secured.
It is on a small side street in the diplomatic quarter of the central Wazir Akbar Khan area, just off a bumpy semi-paved road in a house with low ceilings and an enclosed patio, but no windows.
Bags of dirt are piled up around it to act as blast walls, and guests must go through a series of steel airlocks, where they are searched before entering. The surrounding area is full of police and security guards to protect against insurgent attacks, which have increased in recent months around the country.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the attack targeted foreign officials dining at what he described as a ''hotel''.
''There was a suicide attack on a foreign hotel where special foreign invaders are coming for dinner. In this attack an explosive was used which was very strong and heavy casualties and massive destruction happened,'' he said.
Zabihullah said the targets of the attack included ''high-ranking German officials'' and the German foreign ministry said it was investigating. The Taliban frequently provide exaggerated casualty figures.
Insurgents have frequently targeted foreign interests around the country and in Kabul. The Taliban has increased attacks in recent months after foreign forces handed over control of security for the country to the Afghan army and police. Foreign forces are due to withdraw from the country altogether by the end of this year.
A security agreement that would keep about 10,000 US troops and about 6,000 from allied nations past 2014 has been delayed by President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign it until Afghans elect his successor in the April 5 election.
The deal is seen as crucial to train and mentor the nascent Afghan security forces, which now number about 350,000. If the deal falls through, the US has said it will pull all its forces out of Afghanistan.
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