19 killed as Taleban gunmen attack luxury hotel in Kabul
A man tries to escape from the balcony of the Intercontinental Hotel during the attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday.
Kabul - All five attackers were also killed, interior ministry spokesman Najib Danesh said.
Published: Sun 21 Jan 2018, 9:42 PM
Last updated: Sun 21 Jan 2018, 11:47 PM
Gunmen in army uniforms who stormed Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel late on Saturday and battled Afghan Special Forces through the night killed at least 19 people and wounded 12 more, although the final toll of dead and wounded may still be higher.
Wahid Majroh, a spokesman for the ministry of public health, said 19 bodies had been brought into city hospitals, with six identified as foreigners. The number of casualties may climb higher, however.
All five attackers were also killed, interior ministry spokesman Najib Danesh said.
Local airline Kam Air said around 40 of its pilots and air crew, many of whom are foreigners, were staying in the hotel and as many as 10 had been killed. Local media reports said the dead included Venezuelans and Ukrainians.
Zamari Kamgar, the airline's deputy director, said it was still trying to locate staff.
More than 150 guests were able to flee as parts of the building caught fire, with some shimmying down sheets tied together and dropped from upper-floor windows and others rescued by Afghan forces. The Taleban, which attacked the same hotel in 2011, was responsible for the attack, its spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.
Abdul Rahman Naseri, a guest who was at the hotel for a conference, was in the hall of the hotel when he saw four gunmen dressed in army uniforms.
"They were shouting in Pashto (language), 'Don't leave any of them alive, good or bad'. 'Shoot and kill them all,' one of them shouted," Naseri said.
"I ran to my room on the second floor. I opened the window and tried to get out using a tree but the branch broke and I fell to the ground. I hurt my back and broke a leg." Even after officials said the attack was over, sporadic gunshots and explosions could be heard from the site. The raid was the latest in a series of attacks that have underlined the city's vulnerability and the ability of militants to mount high-profile operations aimed at undermining confidence in the Western-backed government. A statement from the interior ministry put the blame on the Haqqani network, a group affiliated with the Taleban. As day broke on Sunday, thick clouds of black smoke poured from the building, an imposing 1960s structure set on a hilltop and heavily protected like most public buildings in Kabul. The Intercontinental is one of two main luxury hotels and had been due to host an information technology conference on Sunday. More than 100 IT managers and engineers were on site when the attack took place, said Ahmad Waheed, an official at the telecommunications ministry.
Danesh said a private company had taken over responsibility for security at the hotel three weeks ago.