A minivan pulled up to the entryway of the Spozhmai Hotel,north of Kabul,just before midnight Thursday,and what appeared to be seven Afghan women in blue burqas piled out.
Throwing off the burqas,the women turned out to be male insurgents,bristling with weapons and wearing bulky suicide vests. They raced into the hotel,crowded with hundreds of Afghans.
Where are the prostitutes? the intruders demanded as they shot their way through the hotel restaurant,according to accounts survivors. The attackers shot the manager and three unarmed hotel guards,who would be among at least 20 people the attackers managed to kill before their own deaths,mostly by suicide,and some in a joint Afghan-NATO raid,finished the episode. There were no prostitutes and no foreign guests,which Taliban spokesmen later claimed that the group had been targeting.
One of the guests,Shah Mohammed,25,said the seven attackers divided up. Some stalked the restaurant inside the building; others went to the terrace; others to the garden between the hotel and the lakeshore,where many of the diners were seated.
Going from one table to another,they shot men at point-blank range,witnesses said. Hundreds of guests fled and some were evacuated in the early hours of the raid by Afghan forces; 45 holed up in the hotel grounds and were held as hostages until the police took control Friday.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack,saying that Afghans and foreigners drank alcohol there and that there was prostitution and dancing. Women dancers were sexually misused there, said Zabiullah Mujahid,a Taliban spokesman.