A siege that lasted 12 hours finally came to an end after gunmen stormed the Intercontinental Hotel in the Afghan capital. Security forces say six civilians were killed in the overnight siege but around 160 were rescued after Afghan troops fought a long battle through the night.
According to BBC, some reports said gunfire continued for some time after the authorities declared the siege over. One Afghan news agency called Tolo says the death toll could be higher than officials suggest. A reporter had apparently seen dozens of bodies inside the hotel.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Flash?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Flash</a>: <a href="https://twitter.com/TOLOnews?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TOLOnews</a> reporter has seen dozens bodies inside <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Kabul?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Kabul</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/InterContinentalHotel?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#InterContinentalHotel</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/AbdulhaqOmeri?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AbdulhaqOmeri</a> was inside the hotel during the attack. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/KabulAttack?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#KabulAttack</a></p>— Parwiz Shamal (@PShamal) <a href="https://twitter.com/PShamal/status/954987102462242816?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 21, 2018</a></blockquote>
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According to the Afghan airline Kam Air, the company had 42 members and staff in the hotel, many of whom were foreign nationals. 18 of those nationals are still missing and an additional five are presumed to be likely dead. The Taliban has come forward and claimed to be behind the attack, they were also behind an attack targeting the hotel in 2011.
A spokesman said the group had "killed tens of foreign invaders and their puppets." In the initial moments of the attack, the gunmen burst into the six-floor hotel around 21:00 local time on Saturday evening. Guests were enjoying dinner when the attackers stormed in.
<img src="https://media.8ch.net/file_store/92435eaef5a9ed071ed65821de56203e07c995495fa0d8ebbeff05bf07e4b22f.jpg" style="max-height:640px;max-width:360px;">
<span style="margin-top:15px;rgba(42,51,6,0.7);font-size:12px;">Credit: BBC</span>
The regional director of Afghan Telecom Aziz Tayeb was one of the dozens of guests expected to attend an IT conference at the hotel Sunday. Tayeb says he saw the attackers arrive as he was heading towards the exit. "Everything became chaotic in a moment," Tayeb explained.
"I hid behind a pillar and I saw people who were enjoying themselves a second ago screaming and fleeing like crazy, and some of them falling down, hit by bullets."
The gunmen were armed with rocket-propelled grenades and smaller weapons when they lay siege to the hotel and took many of the guests as hostages. One guest named Abdul Rahman Naseri said, "They were shouting… 'Don't leave any of them alive, good or bad. Shoot and kill them all."
Afghan special forces finally ended the siege when they rappelled onto the roof from helicopters during the night. They worked with Western special forces to retake the hotel. The interior ministry says forty-one foreigners were among the rescued and seven of them were wounded.
The ministry has also promised to investigate exactly how the attackers breached the hotel's security. The siege on Saturday came just days after the US embassy in Kabul issued a warning about hotels in the city being potential targets.
"We are aware of reports that extremist groups may be planning an attack against hotels in Kabul," the embassy said in a public security alert sent out Thursday.
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