Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Kabul hotel attack: Nato helicopters kill Taliban

Isaf's Major Tim James: "The Afghan national security forces have responded incredibly well"
Nato helicopters have been called in to strike militants on the roof of a hotel in the Afghan capital, Kabul, that was attacked by suicide bombers and gunmen.
Two helicopters shot dead three attackers at the Intercontinental Hotel during an overnight clash that lasted nearly five hours.
Three other attackers and at least 10 civilians, reportedly all Afghans, were killed in the assault.
The hotel is popular with Westerners, although all guests are reported safe.
A spokesman for the Taliban said the insurgent group had carried out the attack.
Smoke and flames could be seen coming from the hotel as the sun rose over Kabul.

At the scene

One guest who was caught up in the attack told the BBC he had experienced the most difficult hours of his life.
Another guest described a scene of chaos and panic, with everyone running in fear. There had been a wedding party at the hotel, as well as a meeting of some provincial governors.
The fighting took place in darkness as electricity was cut to the hotel and surrounding area. The interior minister said this had been done intentionally, as Afghan security forces were using night-vision equipment.
Afghan security officials said at least six militants had stormed the building, and all had been killed.
Interior ministry spokesman Siddiq Siddiqi told AFP that all the non-militants killed were Afghans, and that eight other people had been wounded.
'Panic' The attack began while many guests were in the dining room late on Tuesday.
Afghan officials told the BBC that one suicide bomber had blown himself up at the front of the hotel and another on the second floor.
Witnesses said panic broke out as guests fled for safety. Afghan troops and police sealed off the building and cut the power, using flares to light the area.
Intense gunfire was heard coming from the hotel and some explosions could be heard up to 5km away, said the BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul.
Afghan police said one militant was shot dead as security forces fought their way through.
Three attackers managed to reach the roof and Afghan officials then asked the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) for assistance, security sources told the BBC.
Isaf spokesman Major Tim James said those killed on the roof by Nato helicopters appeared to have been wearing suicide vests.
"We've had reports that there were a number of explosions caused either by the insurgents detonating themselves or the engagement by the helicopter causing [suicide vests] to explode," he told AFP news agency.
An Afghan official said the attackers had hand-grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s.
Officials said a meeting of provincial governors taking place at the hotel might have been the target of the attack.
The attack also came the night before the start of a conference about the transition of responsibility for security from Isaf to Afghan security forces.
Correspondents say the Intercontinental is one of Kabul's most heavily guarded hotels.
The US state department condemned the attack, saying it demonstrated "the terrorists' complete disregard for human life".
Kabul has been relatively stable in recent months, although violence has increased across the country since the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan on 2 May, and the start of the Taliban's "spring offensive".
In January 2008, militants stormed the capital's most popular luxury hotel, the Serena, and killed eight people, including an American, a Norwegian and a Philippine woman.
Are you in Kabul? Are you at the Intercontinental Hotel or in the vicinity? Send us your comments and experiences using the form below. Please be sure to include your phone number.

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