Taliban siege of Kabul hotel concludes: 20 dead

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers  on the outskirts of Kabul (Reuters/Omar Sobhani)
The 12-hour siege of a hotel on the outskirts of Kabul by Taliban militants has come to a close with 20 people killed, say Afghan police. Twelve of the dead were civilians taken hostage during the raid.

Gunmen stormed Spozhmai hotel on Thursday night taking dozens of civilian hostages. Local police said the militants were heavily armed with rockets and AK-47s and one of the attackers detonated a suicide bomb vest.

Afghan security forces had managed to free 18 people taken hostage by Taliban militants who attacked a lakeside hotel on the outskirts of the capital.

The insurgents then took a number of civilians hostage, and police say that some of those held captive were killed.

"According to the information we have, they have martyred some of them,” Zahir said.

Assailants were also reported to have engaged in a gunfight with security forces, though the number of casualties in the attack, as well as in the blast, remains unknown. Both police and civilians are reported to be among those killed.

The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying the hotel was host to “wild parties” involving drinking and other activities forbidden under Islam. NATO-led coalition commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, says the attack "bears the signature" of the Haqqani network, which is allied with the Taliban.

Kabul deputy police chief Daoud Amin said that according to local security officers, there were three attackers inside the hotel, plus a significant number of civilians.

Currently, police forces have besieged the hotel where people gathered for a picnic or wedding party,” Amin stated. “We will start the operation against them soon and we will be very careful to make sure that civilians are not harmed.

Both Afghan security forces and international coalition troops are responding to the assault, a spokesperson for the International Security Assistance Force said.

Zahir added that security forces would not storm the hotel, for the time being.

It would be very easy for police to kill them, but we are afraid because there are civilians, including women and children, trapped inside. We are waiting for daylight,” he noted.

The hotel building is now surrounded by Afghan troops and about a dozen armored vehicles, in addition to police and ambulances.

The attack came just hours after Afghan President Hamid Karzai said insurgent assaults on soldiers and security forces were on the rise. 

I have noticed that these days, in the past one, two or three months, attacks on our soldiers, police and intelligence officers have increased,” he told the Afghan Parliament. “Every day we have at least 20 to 25 casualties, every day at least 20 to 25 of our youths are making the sacrifice for this country and are being killed.

Karzai also urged the country’s officials to end briberies and kickbacks. He admitted that his government and its Western allies share the blame in failing to bring peace to the country.

His speech, as well as the ensuing violence, came a day after a Taliban suicide bomber killed 21 convoy soldiers in the east of the country.

In April Taliban militants launched the so-called Spring Offensive, targeting government buildings, embassies and foreign bases in a string of coordinated attacks in Kabul. It was the biggest assault on the capital in a decade.