Interior Ministry: 21 dead in Intercontinental Hotel attack (UPDATED)
KABUL (PAN): The Interior Ministry announced that the attack on Intercontinental Hotel ended when the last suicide bomber blew himself up at 8:00 am Wednesday morning. The Ministry had previously said that the assault ended at 3:00 am.
The attack began when a group of suicide bombers entered the hotel at around 10:30 pm. At 8:00 am, the last remaining suicide bomber, who had hidden in the hotel, blew himself up.
Nine Afghan locals, two policemen, one Spanish national, and nine suicide bombers died in the attack. In addition, 13 civilians, five government officials, and two ISAF solders were injured.
Kabul security officials had initially said six assailants were involved in the attack, but the Interior Ministry said in a press release that eight attackers were killed in an operation conducted by the Afghan National Police, the Afghan National Army and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Najeebullah Naikzad, an Interior Ministry deputy spokesman, told Pajhwok Afghan News that the ninth suicide attacker had managed to hide and remain in the hotel after 3:00 am, when the attack was initially thought to have ended. He killed two policemen and the Spaniard when he blew himself up at 8:00 am.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid confirmed the final blast and said that the fighter who blew himself up had been in contact with him.
Three of the dead and a number of the injured were rushed to various hospitals, said Kabir Amiri, head of Kabul hospitals. The injured are reported to be in stable condition, said Amiri.
According to the Interior Ministry, most of the civilians killed in the attack were not high profile targets, but ordinary Afghans.
However, a source in the Supreme Court told Pajhwok Afghan News that the provincial judge from Logar province, Abdul Hanan, was killed in the attack.
Meanwhile, Dr. Nazir Sherzai, director of the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital, said that an official from the office of the Supreme Court, Abdul Rasheed, was brought to the hospital after sustaining injuries in the attack.
Eyewitnesses said a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-packed vest at the gate of the hotel while others entered the building. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid confirmed this account, saying the fighters had entered from the eastern side of the hotel and were outfitted with Kalashnikovs, machine guns, RPGs, hand grenades, and suicide vests.
Another suicide bomber blew himself up on the first floor and others climbed to the roof of the hotel, an eyewitness added.
The remaining suicide bombers fought off security forces until dawn, but all except the ninth were finally killed in an ISAF air attack.
ISAF spokesman Capt. Justin Brockhoff said that a single ISAF helicopter was deployed to assist Afghan security personnel in the operation, at the request of the Interior Ministry. The helicopter engaged five militants on the roof of the hotel, several of whom detonated suicide vests and several of whom were killed by ISAF gunfire.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban spokesman Mujahid contradicted official accounts, saying more than 50 locals and foreigners were killed in the attack. He did not specify where the foreigners came from.
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