Fourteen foreigners were among 18 killed during an over-14-hour siege by gunmen at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, which ended Sunday morning, AP reported, quoting officials. Gunmen dressed in army uniforms had stormed the hotel in the city’s Bagh-e-Bala area on Saturday night.
The number of gunmen is not clear yet. Witnesses said there were four, while the Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the attack, said there were five. Three gunmen were killed, according to the Interior Ministry. More than 150 guests fled the hotel as parts of the building caught fire, Reuters reported. Dozens of guests were taken hostage, according to The Guardian.
Even after officials said the attack was over, some gunshots and explosions were reported from the site. The number of those killed could be as high as 43, a source told TOLOnews.
An unidentified survivor told TOLOnews that the attackers began randomly firing at people in the hotel.
There were intermittent sounds of gunfire through the night. A loud explosion and the sound of rapid gunfire were heard around 4 am, when more security forces were sent into the hotel. Another group of soldiers, which included foreign troops, was sent in at 7 am.
The attack came days after the United States embassy warned of possible attacks on hotels in the city. Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani had said in an interview aired last week that the country’s National Army and the government would collapse in six months without the support of the United States.
The president admitted that his government would not have the money to maintain the Army if the US pulled its support. American taxpayers every year pay more than $4 billion (Rs 25,543 crore), which is 90% of Afghanistan’s defence budget. It has spent another $30 billion (Rs 1.91 lakh crore) to rebuild the country.
The Afghan president said that the country was under siege from the Taliban, which had succeeded in sowing doubts in the mind of the people about the government by terrorising them. The terror groups in the country, he said, were running “factories producing suicide bombers”.