Eli Ridder | AFGHANISTAN
Eighteen were killed when gunmen attacked the Intercontinental Hotel in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Friday and held it under siege for 12 hours until Saturday local time in an apparent targeted attack on foreigners.
Fourteen of those dead were foreigners at the hotel popular with Westerners, in an assault that the Taliban militant group claimed responsibility for.
Afghan armed forces were able to regain control over the hotel after hours of fighting.
Interior Minister Wais Barmack said the recent decision to switch to a private company for security at the hotel was a mistake.
Three of the attackers were killed in the siege and some 160 individuals rescued. Four civilians were injured along with six others.
A witness who was at the scene when the attack occurred told the BBC that gunmen burst into the restaurant but spared his life when he said he was Afghani.
“Where are the foreigners?” the assailants shouted, according to the witness, speaking on anonymity.
Nine Ukrainians, a German, Greek and one Kazakh national had been confirmed as deceased, with two unidentified at this time.
Kam Air, an Afghan airline, said that several of their employees were killed in the attack, with some unaccounted for.
The assault began at 9 p.m. local time on Saturday, with an Afghan intelligence agency official telling AFP news agency that the gunmen were “shooting at guests”.
It has been reported that the state-owned hotel popular for weddings, conferences and political meetings was holding an information technology conference at the time of the attack.
Mr. Danish said that the attackers appeared to include suicide bombers.
Kabul has increased its security dramatically following a truck bomb explosion that killed at least 150 individuals and more recently, an explosion at the Shai Tabayan cultural centre that killed at least 41 and injured 80 on Dec. 28 of last year.
Attacks have been attributed to the resurgent Taliban militant group, with the hotel attack appearing to have also been carried out by the same insurgents, but there has been no confirmation in regards to the allegiance or identity of the gunmen.
Local security forces previous were trading fire with the gunmen on the third and fourth floors of the hotel, according to another ministry spokesperson.
The attackers set the hotel kitchen and the fourth floor on fire, a National Directorate of Security official told AFP.
A previous attack
The Intercontinental was attacked in 2011 by gunmen and suicide bombers that killed a total of seven civilians and was claimed by the Taliban.
A four-hour operation that included North Atlantic Treaty Organization military helicopters and local Afghan forces eventually brought the hotel back into secure control.
Officials were record by the BBC as saying a meeting of provincial governors occurring at the hotel may have been the reason for the June 29 attack.
The hotel, popular with Westerners, was also the location for a planned conference regarding the transition of responsibility from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force to local authorities the day following the 2011 attack.
Image of the scene at the Kabul hotel from the Daily Star.