Taliban raids Afghan hotel

Taliban raids Afghan hotel

Taliban raids Afghan hotel

Afghan soldiers take up position behind a rock as smoke rises in the background at the hotel where Taliban militants holed up taking hostages several people, on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan. EPA photo

Taliban militants armed with guns and rockets attacked a lakeside hotel near Kabul on June 22, seizing dozens of hostages and killing at least 18 people, in another bold attack that showed a potent insurgency remains after over a decade of war.

Insurgents first killed the security guards at the hotel, then stormed inside it and began firing at guests who were dining. Some of the guests escaped while others, including women and children, were held hostage as the attackers battled Afghan security forces who rushed to the scene for the next 12 hours. Kabul police said all five attackers had been shot and killed by midday, ending the standoff.

Fourteen Afghan civilians, three security guards and an Afghan police officer died in the attack, said Mohammad Zahir, criminal director for Kabul police. The Spozhmai Hotel is a haunt of the wealthy Kabul elite and on Thursday nights, the start of the Afghan weekend, it is usually packed with families and mixed groups of men and women. “The attackers entered the hotel and suddenly opened fire on families having a late dinner,” the Associated Press quoted Zahir as saying.

 ‘Wild parties’

“The hotel was crowded. Some of the guests jumped from the window into the hotel yard. They were hiding under trees or any safe place they could find,” he added The Taliban told Agence France-Presse that the hotel was attacked because every Thursday it held “wild parties, drinking and prostitution.” Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid accused foreign diplomats, members of the U.S.-led NATO mission, and the Kabul government of attending the Thursday gatherings at the hotel.

Zahir denied the claim. “That is totally wrong. These are people who had worked all week and had gone to the lake to have a restful dinner with their families. The view there is very good for relaxation.

There is no alcohol.” Qargha lies around 10 kilometers from central Kabul and its pleasant weather and greenery make it a popular picnic spot for day trippers from the capital. The lake is surrounded by hotels, restaurants and wedding halls. Hotels, guest houses, government buildings, embassies and military bases in Kabul have been a frequent target of commando-style insurgent attacks.

A spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed that its troops and Afghan security forces had responded to the assault. NATO intends to withdraw its 130,000 combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, exiting the costly, decade-long war that has killed tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and more than 3,050 foreign soldiers.