Taliban storm lakeside hotel in Kabul; 20 dead
* Afghan govt takes 12 hours to declare assault over
* Taliban burst into private party, take hostages
KABUL: Taliban terrorists armed with guns and rockets attacked a lakeside hotel near Kabul overnight, seizing dozens of hostages, including women and children, and killing at least 18 people.
It took the government 12 hours to declare the brazen assault on the Spozhmai Hotel over with all four terrorists killed, after security forces earlier freed a number of the hostages. The attack is likely only to exacerbate fears that insecurity is spiralling as NATO combat troops prepare to exit the Afghan war in 2014.
The US commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan blamed the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network for orchestrating the assault, the latest in a series of spectacular commando-style raids on hotels, government and Western targets in Kabul blamed on the faction. On a balcony overlooking the lake, a birthday cake lay half eaten on a table surrounded by a dozen empty chairs, while nearby sprawled the bloodied body of a young man shot repeatedly in the chest. Like many of the victims, he was dressed in Western clothes, an AFP reporter said. The Spozhmai is a haunt of the wealthy Kabul elite and on Thursday nights – the start of the Afghan weekend – is usually packed with families and mixed groups of men and women. Taliban attacked as people gathered for a late dinner.
At least one of the terrorists detonated an explosive suicide vest, said Muhammad Zahir, the head of Kabul police criminal investigation department.
Witness Sharifullah, 30, had gone to the Spozhmai for dinner with a friend. “I saw three armed men entering the area where people, families, had gathered. Moments later the shooting broke out, people panicked and started screaming,” he told AFP. “I threw myself in a ditch but saw bullets hitting a father, his son and wife who were sitting around a table near me. I am not sure if they survived.” The standoff ended at 11am, when the fourth attacker was killed, the interior ministry said.
Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the attackers killed 18 people, including three hotel guards and one policeman. Taliban, who are leading a bloody insurgency against Karzai’s Western-backed government, told AFP that the hotel was attacked because of “wild parties, drinking and prostitution” every Thursday. agencies