22 dead in Kabul hotel attack
KABUL (PAN): At least 22 people were killed and several others wounded after a group of five suicide bombers laced with guns stormed a hotel overnight in the heavily-fortified central capital, police said on Friday.
The latest coordinated attack was launched on the Spogmai Hotel in the Qarghaee Band (lake) area at around 11am on Thursday night, crime investigation department head at the 101st Asmaee Zone Police, Brig. Gen. Abdul Zahir, told Pajhwok Afghan News.
The clash between police and the attackers lasted 12 hours, he said, adding the dead included 17 civilians, four attackers and one policeman. Among the injured were six civilians.
Zahir said security forces had been able to rescue civilians, including women and children, held hostage by the attackers in the hotel. He said the operation was conducted with utmost care to prevent civilian casualties.
Four dead bodies of the rebels and their heavy and light guns were recovered from the building, the police official said.
Another security official, Haji Daud Tarakhel, who led the special unit that conducted the operation, said 15 civilians were killed in the attack and another 10 were wounded. He said there were seven attackers and all of them had been killed.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior spokesman Sadiq Siddiqi told reporters at the scene that the dead included three workers of the hotel.
Qand Agha, a 25-year-old worker at the hotel, said he survived the incident after hiding beneath a table. He said the attackers in burqas arrived in a vehicle in front of the hotel. They shot dead three hotel security guards soon after disembarking the vehicle and then entered the building, he said. Agha said he heard the attackers telling each other not to harm women and kill the men.
Another worker, Rassoul Khan, said he and his other co-workers were hiding behind tables until dawn and were able to flee when electricity cut off.
He said there were about 120 guests at the hotel at the time of the assault. Some were sitting in lawns and others taking dinner when the gunmen entered after killing guards at the gate.
However, Kabul Police Chief Brig. Gen. Basir Salangi said there were 300 to 400 guests around the Qargahee lake. Some of the guests jumped into the lake and reached the other side swimming, he said.
The interior ministry spokesman said that 300 guests were rescued by security forces. Siddiqi said the insurgents having no courage to enter a face-to-face engagement with security forces had opted to attacking civilian places.
The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the organised attack. Their spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said a number of fighters laced with explosives, light and heavy weapons attacked the hotel at a time when a great number of foreign and Afghan officials were present there. Several foreigners and Afghan officials were killed in the attack, he said.
However, Siddiqi said there was no foreigner at the hotel, where civilians had come for entertainment.
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