A Taliban assault on the Intercontinental Hotel in Afghanistan’s capital killed at least 18 people, including 14 foreigners, and pinned security forces down for more than 13 hours before the last attacker was killed today, with the casualty toll expected to rise.
The heavily-guarded luxury hotel is popular among foreigners and Afghan officials. Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said the 18 killed included 14 foreigners and a telecommunications official from the western Farah province who was attending a conference.
“11 of the 14 foreigners killed were employees of KamAir, a private Afghan airline,” said Danish. KamAir also put out an announcement saying some of their flights were disrupted because of the attack.
Ukraine says one of its citizens was killed in the attack. Vasyl Kyrylych, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, announced the death of the Ukrainian citizen in a brief statement on Twitter, without providing further details.
Afghan officials did not identify the foreigner killed in the attack.
Ten other people, including six from the security forces, were reported wounded and more than 150 people, including 41 foreigners, were rescued from the hotel, Danish said.
The Taliban claimed the attack, which began around 9 PM yesterday, saying five gunmen armed with suicide vests targeted foreigners and Afghan officials.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the insurgents initially planned to attack the hotel Thursday night but postponed the assault because there was a wedding underway and they wanted to avoid civilian casualties.
The attack unfolded almost six years after Taliban insurgents launched a similar assault on the property, which is not part of the Intercontinental chain of worldwide hotels.
The Interior Ministry said a private firm assumed responsibility for securing the hotel around three weeks ago.
The ministry says it is investigating how the attackers managed to enter the building.
During a press conference, Danish said that early investigations show that six insurgents entered the hotel from the northern side and stormed its kitchen. Two attackers were killed by Special Forces on the 6th floor of the hotel.
“We need to complete our investigation, but our initial reports show that the attackers were moved in to the hotel,” said Danish.
Mumtaz Ahmad, a provincial telecommunication employee for Helmand province who survivor the attack said “I was on my way from my room toward the reception, when I the elevator door opened, I saw two-armed suicide bombers. People were escaping and the attackers were firing at them.”
Afghan security officials confirmed that 34 provincial officials were gathered at the hotel to participate in a conference organized by the Telecommunication Ministry.