Afghan Special Forces killed three attackers on Sunday, ending the overnight siege at Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel. A group of three attackers had entered the popular hotel on Saturday taking hostages and battling security forces for hours. At least 18 other people had been killed and six were wounded, according to Interior Ministry spokesperson Najib Danish. The Taliban claimed the attack.
While officials were fearing a higher number of casualty, 153 people, including 41 foreigners, had been evacuated from the premises. More than 100 IT managers and engineers were on site when the attack took place since it had been due to host an information technology conference on Sunday. This is not the first time the nearly six-decade-old hotel has been attacked. In 2011, the Intercontinental Hotel — one of two main luxury hotels in the city — was attacked by Taliban fighters.
Reuters reported that several armoured US military vehicles with heavy machine guns were close to the hotel along with Afghan police units. Danish had earlier said that the US embassy had warned of possible attacks on hotels in Kabul only days earlier.
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. According to one witness, who did not want to be named, the attackers took hotel staff and guests hostage.
Aziz Tayeb, Afghan Telecom regional director, who was attending the IT conference, told AFP he saw the attackers enter the hotel as he was walking towards the exit. Tayeb was quoted by AFP as saying: “Everything became chaotic in a moment. I hid behind a pillar and I saw people who were enjoying themselves a second ago screaming and fleeing like crazy, and some of them falling down, hit by bullets.”
During the night special forces were lowered by helicopters onto the roof of the landmark hotel, interior ministry deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told AFP earlier. A guest hiding in a room also told AFP he could hear gunfire inside the 1960s hotel where dozens of people attending an information technology conference on Sunday were staying. “I don’t know if the attackers are inside the hotel but I can hear gunfire from somewhere near the first floor,” the man, who did not want to be named, said over phone.
While large areas of the city centre are already closed off behind high concrete blast walls and police checkpoints, security arrangements in the city might be further tightened in the wake of the incident. Security officials have also warned that the danger of attacks on high-profile targets in Kabul and other cities would increase.
(With agency inputs)