The insurgents targeted one of Kabul’s best-known and best-protected buildings, the historic Intercontinental Hotel, on a hilltop in the city’s west. It was unclear exactly how they managed to reach the site, but at least one police official said early Wednesday that the assailants had been wearing police uniforms.
Police officials said the attackers exploded a vehicle at the site’s entrance, then sent a team of bombers and gunmen inside the hotel, where a wedding was underway and a meeting of the nation’s provincial governors was being prepared.
The Taliban spokesman, in a chilling statement early Wednesday, said the attackers had called during the siege to report killing at least 50 “foreign and local enemies” inside the hotel. The statement, sent to various news outlets, said some attackers had reached all five floors and had gone door to door, pulling guests out of their rooms and shooting them.
However, an official from the Interior Ministry, Samoonyar Zaman, told reporters that all 60 to 70 guests were safe in their rooms. Officials said that some provincial governors and their staff members had been in the hotel, preparing for a two-day conference on the security transition, but that the governors may have left.
Latifullah Mashal, the spokesman of the Afghan National Directorate for Security, said eight suicide attackers were involved and all had either blown themselves up or been killed by Afghan or coalition forces, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
The 11 civilians killed included a judge from an unnamed province, five hotel workers and three Afghan policemen, Mashal said. He said no foreigners were killed, but two foreigners were among 14 people wounded in the attack. He did not disclose their nationalities.
The assault was apparently quelled about 2 a.m. when two NATO attack helicopters shot down three insurgents still fighting from the hotel roof. Jason Waggoner, a spokesman for the U.S-led coalition, said the helicopters were called in after several loud explosions were heard from the hotel. He said that the helicopter crews killed three gunmen and that Afghan security forces reached the roof from below and killed the remaining insurgents. An Interior Ministry spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, then declared that all the attackers were dead.
This is the second bombing in Kabul this year of a hotel frequented by foreigners, after an attack in February on the Safi Landmark hotel. In January 2008, an insurgent commando squad invaded the luxury Serena Hotel in downtown Kabul, killing seven people, including several foreigners.