UPDATES WITH DEATH TOLL, MORE DETAILS
By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) - Over 20 people, including sixteen civilians and six armed assailants, have been killed during the siege of the Intercontinental Hotel in capital Kabul that finally came to an end on Sunday, an official said.
The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the execution of the deadly assault on the country’s iconic hotel, where tens of officials from across the country and dozens of foreign guests were present on Saturday.
“Tens of foreign & ‘hireling’ enemy [were] killed in Kabul ‘martyr attack’ on Intercontinental Hotel targeting ‘enemy meeting’”, the group’s spokesman has said in a social media post.
Emerging details reveal the officials from all 34 provinces were gathered at the hotel for a meeting on telecommunication related matters when the militants armed with AK47s and hand-grenades sneaked into the first floor of the multiple-story luxury hotel via kitchen.
“Most of our Afghan countrymen and foreign guests working for various companies got killed on the first floor”, Najib Danish, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior (MoI) told a news conference.
A foreign woman, a provincial head of the directorate of telecommunication and information technology, and a Pakistan-based Afghan diplomat are among those killed in the 14-hour long firing spree.
Kam Air, Afghanistan’s leading private airline, has announced multiple flight delays owing to loss of ten members of its local and international crew as well as injuries sustained by its employees staying at the hotel.
“Due to the bloody incident at the Inter-Continental Hotel in which a number of Kam Air employees, including pilots and crew, are among the victims, delays and cancellations in daily flights have taken place”, it announced.
The attack has been widely condemned.
President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has said there is a need to intensify efforts against terrorism without discrimination.
“During recent talks with the delegation of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the government of Afghanistan has once against stressed upon intensifying pressure against supporters of terrorists, and has made it clear until the terrorist groups are supported and provided sanctuaries, the people of this region would not have peace, security and stability”, Ghani said in an indirect reference to Pakistan.
During the UNSC members’ visit to Kabul last week, Afghan officials categorically blamed Islamabad for promoting terrorism in Afghanistan, a charge Pakistan denies.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan has condemned the latest attack in Kabul conveying solidarity and support with the government and people of Afghanistan at this dastardly terrorist attack.
The attack began late Saturday when a group of armed attackers stormed the state-owned 20th-century hotel, located on a hill in the western Bagh-e-Bala neighborhood of the city, despite tight security. Special units of the Afghan National Police (ANP) were involved in the security operation at the hotel.
The MoI has launched investigations into the incident that would also cover possible negligence or collaboration by a private security firm that was awarded security contract of the hotel three weeks ago.