Sunday, January 21, 2018

Siege at Kabul Hotel Caps a Violent 24 Hours in Afghanistan - nytimes

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban’s bloody, 14-hour siege on a major hotel in Kabul ended on Sunday, after six assailants terrorized much of the city with explosions and gunfire.

The exact number of casualties remained unclear, and the authorities said it might take days to determine the extent of the material damage. Najib Danish, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said that 14 foreigners and four Afghans had been killed in the attack, and that 10 others, including six members of the security forces, had been wounded. Local news outlets put the number of dead at 43.

The siege capped a violent 24 hours across Afghanistan, where about 50 people were killed in four provinces as the 16-year war continues to spiral more violently, with no tangible signs of a resolution.

A guest, Abdul Rauf, 48, said he had run through the halls of the hotel as an armed man was firing and had then taken cover in his room.

“I don’t know if he was the police or a suicide attacker, but he was shooting,” he said by cellphone while hiding under the bed of his hotel room. “Two rooms were on fire and smoke came into my room. I couldn’t breathe until I broke a window with my chair.”

The attack was the second in eight years at the 200-room Intercontinental Hotel, located on top of a hill. The Afghan carrier Kam Air said that six of its employees from Ukraine were killed, along with two from Venezuela.

Mr. Danish, the Interior Ministry spokesman, said six assailants armed with grenades and AK-47s had entered the hotel through the kitchen around 9 p.m. on Saturday. Most of the rooms were occupied, with at least 100 guests of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology staying there for a conference.

Helicopters and drones circled above the hotel for hours while guests hid inside, many cowering under beds or in toilet stalls. Television footage showed guests trying to climb out of windows with the help of makeshift ropes. The elite forces that arrived at the scene rescued 160 guests, including 41 foreigners.

There was much confusion about when the operation ended. At first, the authorities declared the siege over around 9 a.m., saying all four assailants had been killed. But a New York Times reporter at the scene continued to hear explosions and gunfire, which security officials said was part of a “clearance operation.” When the Interior Ministry later said there had actually been six assailants, it became clear that two had been missed in their initial sweep. - More

Siege at Kabul Hotel Caps a Violent 24 Hours in Afghanistan - The ...


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