May 19, 2013
Afghan Taliban attack kills at least 9 in landmark hotel
Afghan police sifted through one of Kabul's landmark hotels room by room on Wednesday for any more casualties, securing the building after an overnight assault by Taliban suicide bombers killed eight Afghan civilians and police and a foreigner.
The nine attackers, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons, stormed the heavily guarded Intercontinental hotel, frequented by Westerners and VIPs, before a NATO helicopter killed the remaining insurgents in a final rooftop battle that ended a raid lasting more than five hours.
The foreign victim was a Spanish civil aviation pilot, according to Spain's foreign ministry.
The brazen raid came only a week after US President Barack Obama announced a phased withdrawal of combat troops to 2014, and it raised more doubts about the ability of Afghan security forces to battle insurgents.
It needed a NATO helicopter to finally finish off the attackers, and NATO trainers helped oversee the Afghan police response to the raid.
After several explosions, attackers entered the hotel and made their way to the ballroom, a hotel receptionist said.
Some carried tape recorders playing Taliban war songs and shot at anyone they saw. Guests jumped from second and third floors to escape, the receptionist told reporters, asking not to be identified.
"The police are still searching room by room to see if there are any casualties or any threats," Kabul police chief Ayoub Salangi told reporters.
Eight people were wounded in the attack, according to the Interior Ministry.
There have been insurgent attacks at a hotel, guesthouse and a supermarket in Kabul over the past year, although the capital has been relatively quiet compared with the rest of the country.
Some guests included provincial governors attending a conference due to begin on Wednesday over the transition of civil and military responsibility from foreign forces to Afghans, two Afghan officials said.
Last week, Obama announced plans for an initial withdrawal of 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, with another 23,000 to leave by the end of 2012, sparking concern the Afghan security forces were not ready to take over.