KABUL: The death toll from the deadly attack on Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul climbed to 18 and six other people were wounded, according to Tolo News.
Gunmen dressed in army uniforms who stormed Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel battled Afghan Special Forces for 17 hours in an overnight siege that ended at 10:00 am (according to the local) on Sunday.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which saw more than 150 guests flee, with some shimmying down tied-together sheets from upper-floor windows and others rescued by Afghan forces.
Abdul Rahman Naseri, a guest who was at the hotel for a conference, was in the hall of the hotel when he saw four insurgents 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.”
Earlier in the day, the Ministry of Interior confirmed that at least five people, including the head of Farah’s telecommunication department, Jamaluddin Padshahkhil, and one foreigner, were killed and six wounded in the siege. Later on, it got confirmed through local sources that 17 people were killed and six got injured.
President Ashraf Ghani in a statement condemned the attack and called for regional and international consensus against states which sponsor and harbor terrorists; assigned a team to investigate the incident.
The Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah also condemned the attack, in a tweet, and commended security forces for saving civilians trapped inside the hotel following the incident.
Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said the siege ended on Sunday when the last gunman was shot dead.
Meanwhile, 153 people, including 41 foreigners were evacuated, said Danish.
The raid was the latest in a long series of attacks which have underlined the city’s precarious situation and the ability of militants to mount high profile operations aimed at undermining confidence in the Western-backed government.
As day broke on Sunday, thick clouds of black smoke could be seen pouring from the building. Several armored US military vehicles with heavy machine guns could be seen close to the hotel along with Afghan police units.
Hotel manager Ahmad Haris Nayab, who escaped unhurt, said the attackers had got into the main part of the hotel through a kitchen before going through the hotel, with many guests trapped in their rooms.
“When the sixth floor caught fire this morning, my roommate told me, either burn or escape,” said Mohammad Musa, who was hiding in his room on the top floor when he heard gunfire.
“I got a bed sheet and tied it to the balcony. I tried to come down but I was heavy and my arms were not strong enough. I fell down and injured my shoulder and leg.”
The raid came just days after a US embassy warning of possible attacks on hotels in Kabul.
The Intercontinental Hotel, an imposing 1960s structure set on a hilltop and heavily protected like most public buildings in Kabul, was previously attacked by Taliban fighters in 2011.
It is one of two main luxury hotels in the city 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, Ahmad Waheed, an official at the telecommunications ministry, said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid sent a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, which he said had been carried out by five fighters.
The attack, just days after a United Nations Security Council visit to Kabul to allow senior representatives of member states to assess the situation in Afghanistan, may lead to a further tightening of security in Kabul.
Large areas of the city centre are already closed off behind high concrete blast walls and police checkpoints but the ability of the attackers to get into a well-protected hotel frequented by both government officials and foreigners demonstrated how difficult it remains to prevent high profile attacks.
Danish said a private company had taken over the security of the hotel about three weeks ago.
The State Department said on Saturday it was monitoring the situation and was in contact with Afghan authorities to determine whether any US citizens had been affected.
Captain Tom Gresback, the spokesman for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, said they were also watching closely but it was not clear what role international forces took in suppressing the attack.
“Afghan National Defence and Security Forces are leading the response efforts. According to initial reports, no Resolute Support or (US forces) members were injured in this incident,” he said in an emailed statement as the fighting continued.
Although Resolute Support says the Taliban has come under pressure after the United States increased assistance to Afghan security forces and stepped up air strikes against insurgents, security remains precarious.
As pressure on the battlefield has increased, security officials have warned that the danger of attacks on high-profile targets in Kabul and other cities would increase.
After repeated attacks in Kabul, notably an incident last May in which a truck bomber killed at least 150 people outside the German embassy, security has been further tightened.
While it shares the same name, the hotel in Kabul is not part of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which issued a statement in 2011 saying that “the hotel Inter-continental in Kabul is not part of IHG and has not been since 1980”.
Pakistan has condemned the terrorist attack at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul in which five people were killed.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday stated, “Pakistan strongly condemns the brutal terrorist attack at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul. We express deep grief and sorrow at the loss of precious human lives and the injuring of many others in this terrorist act.”
“Pakistan conveys solidarity and support with Afghanistan at this dastardly terrorist attack, our deepest sympathies for those who have lost their loved ones,” read the statement further.
The statement further added that the cooperation among both of the states ‘is important for effectively combating and eliminating the scourge of terrorism,’ the statement concluded.