A massive terror attack is currently underway at Kabul’s Intercontinental hotel. The hotel is one of two high-end hotels in Kabul and is used for events including conferences used for government officials. It is currently under attack by at least three gunmen with a number of people being taken as hostage. Local media reports a group of insurgents stormed the Intercontinental Hotel in Bagh-e-Bala area in Kabul city at about 9.20 pm on Saturday evening.
According to the interior ministry spokesman, Najib Danish police have cordoned off the area and are trying to bring the situation under control. He said Crisis Response Unit (CRU) members and Special Forces are at the scene and some are in the hotel. According to him a number of guests and staff have been taken to a secure area and security personnel is moving through the hotel in a bid to eliminate the attackers. One attacker has already been killed and three more are suspected of still being inside the hotel.
However, heavy gunfire is ongoing. Unconfirmed reports indicate at least one suicide bomber was involved and attackers used hand grenades and automatic weapons in the attack. Security officials said it is believed that some people have been taken hostage by the attackers.
According to TOLOnews journalist Gulabuddin Ghubar, who is close to the scene, the attackers had been holed up in the kitchen but then later moved through the hotel. The attackers have also reportedly set fire to parts of the hotel. Residents in the area report a high volume of ambulances at the scene but the area has been cordoned off by security forces.
The gunmen were exchanging fire with security forces at the luxury hotel which sits at the top of a hill and is heavily protected, having previously been attacked by Taliban militants. So far Eleven Afghan civilians — all Intercontinental workers — have been killed, along with two policemen. Thirteen others were wounded, but none of the hotel’s guests were killed.
In 2011, eight Taliban insurgents stormed the hotel, setting off explosions and exchanging gunfire with authorities for hours until pressure from Afghan snipers and a NATO helicopter forced three of the remaining bombers to blow themselves up. The Afghan news agency TOLO has confirmed hostages had been taken after the attack began around 9:00 p.m. local time. Heavy gunfire is ongoing and the hotel itself is reported to be on fire.
A guest hiding in his room in the hotel stated he could hear gunfire. “I don’t know if the attackers are inside the hotel but I can hear gunfire from somewhere near the first floor,” he said without giving his name. “We are hiding in our rooms. I beg the security forces to rescue us as soon as possible before they reach and kill us.” Although the NATO-led Resolute Support mission claims the Taliban has come under pressure after the United States increased military assistance to Afghan security forces and stepped up air strikes against the insurgents, security remains precarious.
Security forces battled a group of three or four gunmen who stormed the popular western-style Intercontinental Hotel in the Afghan capital Kabul Saturday.
Saturday’s attack comes just two days after the US Embassy in Kabul issued a warning that they had received “reports that extremist groups may be planning an attack against hotels in Kabul, such as the Hotel Baron near Hamid Karzai International Airport. These groups may also be targeting public gatherings/demonstrations, government facilities, transportation, markets, and places where foreigners are known to congregate.”
Mr. Rahimi said the hotel guests included foreigners and some reports said the hotel had been hosting an IT conference attended by provincial officials at the time of the attack.
Another official said the attackers were armed with small weapons and rocket-propelled grenades when they blasted their way into the hotel, which often hosts weddings, conferences, and political gatherings.
“They are now on the third and fourth floors fighting with our forces. We don’t know the details of casualties yet but they set the kitchen on fire,” interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi, “Firefighters are also there to put out the fire.”
The fourth floor of the hotel, which has four restaurants and a swimming pool, is also on fire, the NDS official said. Ministry of interior spokesman Najib Danish confirmed that several attackers had entered the hotel and one has been killed, “We don’t know the details yet but our forces are in the area to bring them down,” Danish said.
Some of the occupants of the hotel are hiding on the second floor, a security source said. Electricity was cut after an initial explosion at the hilltop hotel, a counterterrorism source said.
A conference on Afghanistan-China relations was held at the hotel earlier Saturday, attended by the Chinese embassy’s political counselor Zhang Zhixin. Security in Kabul has been tightened since May 31 when a massive truck bomb ripped through the diplomatic quarter, killing some 150 people and wounding around 400 others — mostly civilians. No group has yet claimed that attack.