20 die in Afghan hotel siege

KABUL — Elite Afghan police backed by Nato forces ended a 12-hour siege on Friday at a popular lakeside hotel outside Kabul, leaving at least 20 dead after Taleban gunmen stormed the lakeside building, bursting into a party and seizing dozens of hostages.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Sun 24 Jun 2012, 12:42 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 11:45 AM

The night-time assault on the hotel with rocket-propelled grenades, suicide vests and machine guns again proved how potent the insurgency remains after a decade of war. The commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan said the attack bore the signature of the Taleban-linked Haqqani group that he said continued to operate from Pakistan.

At the hotel, terrified guests jumped into the lake in the darkness to escape the carnage, Afghan officials and residents said. Up to 300 people had been inside the hotel when the attack began.

Afghan interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said 12 to 15 civilians, two hotel guards and a policeman were killed in the gunbattle at the Spozhmai hotel, overlooking Qargha Lake. Five attackers were also killed.

“Afghan National Security Forces and coalition military sources acknowledge that this attack bears the signature of the Haqqani network, which continues to target and kill innocent Afghans and blatantly violate Afghan sovereignty from the safety of Pakistan,” General Allen said in a statement.

Blood was splattered over the hotel floor and the crumpled body of a man lay in the garden. Women and children were among the wounded.

“We heard a heavy explosion from a rocket-propelled grenade. We tried to escape, but we were surrounded by suicide bombers. We hid ourselves behind a tree until morning. God protected us,” said Abdullah Samadi, 24.

The gunmen, Samadi said, had been closely watching their prisoners and searching for illegal stocks of wine. “Around dawn they came closer to us and we had to jump in the water. We were there until 9am and then the situation got better and we slowly, slowly swam toward security forces,” he said.

Sediqqi said the Taleban were using civilians as human shields to defend themselves and held about 50 people hostage late into Friday morning. Elite Afghan quick-response police backed by Nato troops freed at least 35 hostages in an operation that only began in earnest after sunrise to help security forces avoid civilian deaths in night-time confusion.

President Hamid Karzai said attacking a place where people went for picnics was a sign of defeat for the enemies of Afghanistan.

The Taleban complained wealthy Afghans and foreigners used the hotel, about 10km from the centre of Kabul, for “prostitution” and “wild parties” ahead of the Friday holiday. — Reuters

Launching their annual offensive this spring, the Taleban threatened to attack more government officials and rich Afghans, but the hotel assault was one of few in which multiple hostages were taken since the start of the war, now in its 11th year.

President Hamid Karzai said attacking a place where people went for picnics was a sign of defeat for the enemies of Afghanistan.

“This is a crime against humanity because they targeted children, women and civilians picnicking at the lake. There wasn’t even a single soldier around there,” said General Mohammad Zahir, head of the Kabul police investigation unit.

Television pictures showed several people wading out of the lake onto a balcony and clambering over a wall to safety.

Nato attack helicopters could be seen over the single-storey hotel building and a balcony popular with guests for its sunset views, while a pall of smoke rose into the air.

Soldiers and police fanned out around the hotel at dawn, arriving in cars and armoured Humvee vehicles and taking cover behind trees flanking the lake and a nearby golf course.

Qargha Lake is one of Kabul’s few options for weekend getaways. Restaurants and hotels that dot the shore are popular with Afghan government officials and businessmen, particularly on Thursday nights.

Guests at the Spozhmai must pass through security checks before entering the hotel, where tables with umbrellas overlook the water, but security is relatively light for a city vulnerable to militant attacks.



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