At least six Taliban gunmen and bombers attacked a famous Kabul hotel where senior Afghan officials were staying, waging a battle with security forces that lasted for hours.
The first attacker blew himself up at the hotel entrance, blasting a way through the tight security around Kabul’s Intercontinental. Behind him, five more gunmen, some wearing suicide jackets and others armed with rocket-propelled grenades, swarmed into the lobby of the Intercontinental and began seeking out guests, floor by floor, room by room.
The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility in a series of phone calls to news organisations. A spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the gunmen were targeting foreigners and described chilling scenes inside the hotel. He also claimed that he had been in contact with one of the attackers inside the hotel. The spokesman told the Associated Press: “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.”‘
On Tuesday night a delegation of provincial governors was believed to be staying at the hotel for a conference. As well as the wedding reception, another function was being held at the poolside and many of the guests were just sitting down to dinner when the attack began.
According to Bette Dam, a Dutch journalist at the scene, the attackers also appeared to be armed with rocket-propelled grenades. On Twitter Dam reported seeing at least four RPGs being launched from the hotel into the nearby house belonging to Mohammad Qasim Fahim, one of Afghanistan’s vice-presidents.
The BBC reported that 10 people had been killed, although it was not possible to confirm that figure with Afghan authorities. CNN reports that the Chief of Criminal Investigation Mohammad Zahir said that at least eight civilians were killed and six were injured.
Tuesday night’s attack suggests the Taliban is now intent on bringing chaos back to Afghanistan’s capital.