Afghanistan: Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel Attacked by Taliban Militants

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The Guardian/UK

Afghanistan: Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel Attacked by Taliban Militants

Taliban militants with at least one suicide bomb attack popular Kabul hotel, with Afghan police reportedly locked in gun battles

by
Jon Boone in Kabul

Aghanistan security forces at the InterContinental hotel. Witnesses said they heard bursts of gunfire and saw shooting from the roof. (Photograph: AP)

A famous hotel in Kabul is under attack from a commando squad of Taliban militants armed with small arms, at least one suicide bomb and rocket propelled grenades.

The assault on the old Intercontinental, which is popular with Afghan politicians and foreign visitors, began late on Tuesday night when it is thought at least two receptions were taking place.

Although details about the ongoing assault are still unclear, a Taliban spokesman, contacted on the phone by journalists, was quick to claim credit for the assault.

A Kabul police chief, Mohammad Zahir, said the assault involved "several gunmen shooting", and that a "number" of police had been wounded.

According to a tweet by Bette Dam, a Dutch journalist at the scene, the attackers also appeared to be armed with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). Dam reported seeing at least four RPGs being launched from the hotel into the nearby house belonging to Mohammad Qasim Fahim, one of Afghanistan's vice-presidents.

Reuters reported that a wedding party was in progress at the 1960s hotel, which is no longer part of the Intercontinental chain, at the time of the assault.

The attack on such a well-defended hotel, which is impossible to approach without going through at least two security checkpoints, is embarrassing for the Afghan government as it prepares to take responsibility for security in Kabul province, as part of much-vaunted "transition" strategy. Afghan authorities have already been nominally in charge of the capital city for some time.

Attacks in Kabul have been relatively rare, although violence has increased since the 2 May killing of Osama bin Laden in a US raid in Pakistan, and since the start of the Taliban's annual spring offensive.

On 18 June, insurgents wearing Afghan army uniforms stormed a police station near the presidential palace and opened fire on officers, killing nine.

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