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Militants Attack Kabul Hotel; At Least 10 Dead

Filed by KOSU News in World News.
June 28, 2011

A team of gunmen reportedly including suicide bombers has attacked the Inter-Continental hotel in Kabul, leaving at least 10 people dead and an unknown number of others wounded.

Samoonyar Mohammad Zaman, a security officer for the Ministry of Interior, said the insurgents were armed with machine guns, anti-aircraft weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades. They were using grenade launchers, he said.

Zaman said there were 60 to 70 guests at the hotel, which is frequented by Afghan political leaders and foreign visitors. Afghan national security forces were moving inside the blacked-out hotel slowly as to not frighten or hurt any guests, he said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said all the suicide bombers either blew themselves up or were killed; two gunmen continued to fire from the roof, he said.

Witnesses heard gunfire and explosions from inside the hotel where police battled with gunmen. Some guests fled on foot down the steep, fortified hill that has usually provided the hotel with some security throughout many years of war in Kabul.

The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary in Kabul said officials believe several people were involved in the incident.

“An Afghan intelligence official in the hotel told me that three of the attackers have managed to detonate their suicide vest,” Sawari said.

One of the attackers detonated his vest on the second floor where the rooms are, he said; the second at the front gate and the third at the hotel’s rear.

“The Afghan intelligence official also said that the insurgents are choosing a late hour in the night, one where guards were relaxed,” Sawari reported.

The Associated Press quoted Afghan officials as saying there were four suicide bombers.

Police cordoned off the area and electricity had apparently been cut, leaving the massive building in darkness punctuated by muzzle flashes.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility in a telephone call to The AP.

“One of our fighters called on a mobile phone and said: ‘We have gotten onto all the hotel floors and the attack is going according to the plan. We have killed and wounded 50 foreign and local enemies. We are in the corridors of the hotel now taking guests out of their rooms — mostly foreigners. We broke down the doors and took them out one by one,”‘ he said.

The U.S.-led military coalition said the Afghan Ministry of Interior had not requested any assistance from foreign forces.

Earlier on Tuesday, officials from the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan met in the capital to discuss prospects for making peace with Taliban insurgents to end the nearly decade-long war.

“The fact that we are discussing reconciliation in great detail is success and progress, but challenges remain and we are reminded of that on an almost daily basis by violence,” Jawed Ludin, Afghanistan’s deputy foreign minister, said at a news conference. “The important thing is that we act and that we act urgently and try to do what we can to put an end to violence.”

The attack occurred the day before a conference was scheduled in Kabul to discuss plans for Afghan security forces to take the lead for securing an increasing number of areas of the country between now and 2014 when international forces are expected to move out of combat roles. Afghans across the country were in the city to attend, though it’s not known if any where staying at the Inter-Continental.

NPR’s Quil Lawrence contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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