Po­lice search land­mark Kabul ho­tel af­ter Tal­iban raid kills 9

Shanghai Daily - - WORLD -

AFGHAN po­lice sifted through one of Kabul’s land­mark ho­tels room by room yes­ter­day for any more ca­su­al­ties, se­cur­ing the build­ing af­ter an overnight as­sault by Tal­iban sui­cide bombers killed eight Afghan civil­ians and po­lice and a for­eigner.

The nine at­tack­ers, armed with rocket-pro­pelled grenades and other weapons, stormed the heav­ily guarded In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal ho­tel, fre­quented by Western­ers and VIPs, be­fore a NATO he­li­copter killed the re­main­ing in­sur­gents in a fi­nal rooftop bat­tle that ended a raid last­ing more than five hours.

The for­eign vic­tim was a Span­ish civil avi­a­tion pi­lot, ac­cord­ing to Spain’s for­eign min­istry.

The brazen raid came only a week af­ter US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama an­nounced a phased with­drawal of com­bat troops to 2014, and it raised more doubts about the abil­ity of Afghan se­cu­rity forces to bat­tle in­sur­gents.

It needed a NATO he­li­copter to fi­nally fin­ish off the at­tack­ers, and NATO train­ers helped over­see the Afghan po­lice re­sponse to the raid.

Af­ter sev­eral ex­plo­sions, at­tack­ers en­tered the ho­tel late on Tues­day and made their way to the ball­room, a ho­tel re­cep­tion­ist said.

Some car­ried tape recorders play­ing Tal­iban war songs and shot at any­one they saw. Guests jumped from sec­ond and third floors to es­cape, the re­cep­tion­ist said.

“The po­lice are still search­ing room by room to see if there are any ca­su­al­ties or any threats,” Kabul po­lice chief Ay­oub Salangi told re­porters.

Eight peo­ple were wounded in the at­tack, ac­cord­ing to the In­te­rior Min­istry. There have been in­sur­gent at­tacks at a ho­tel, guest­house and a su­per­mar­ket in Kabul over the past year, although the cap­i­tal has been rel­a­tively quiet com­pared with the rest of the coun­try.

The tim­ing of the at­tack shows the Tal­iban re­tain the abil­ity to strike at will de­spite gains made by NATO-led troops over the past 18 months.

Some guests in­cluded pro­vin­cial governors at­tend­ing a con­fer­ence due to be­gin yes­ter­day over the tran­si­tion of civil and mil­i­tary re­spon­si­bil­ity from for­eign forces to Afghans, two Afghan of­fi­cials said.

Last week, Obama an­nounced plans for an ini­tial with­drawal of 10,000 US troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, with an­other 23,000 to leave by the end of 2012, spark­ing con­cern the Afghan se­cu­rity forces were not ready to take over. But Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai said the plan stood.

“This in­sur­gent at­tack can­not stop our se­cu­rity tran­si­tion process,” Karzai said.

Hours af­ter the at­tack be­gan, some for­eign ho­tel guests were driven away in diplo­matic ve­hi­cles while others waited on a street out­side the ho­tel as the sun rose over Kabul.

Wit­nesses heard at least seven blasts over the course of more than five hours, with bursts of gun­fire heard.

Three in­sur­gents were shot dead while six blew them­selves up.

Tal­iban spokesman Zabi­hul­lah Mu­jahid said sev­eral fight­ers from the Is­lamist group had at­tacked the ho­tel.

Mu­jahid said heavy ca­su­al­ties had been in­flicted.

The ho­tel was for years the city’s main ho­tel and is of­ten used for con­fer­ences and by Western­ers.

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