Taliban kill 17 in suicide attacks on guesthouses
TALIBAN suicide bombers attacked guesthouses and a hotel popular with foreigners in the commercial heart of Kabul yesterday, killing at least 17 people.
Up to nine Indians, an Italian diplomat and a French film-maker were among the dead. Witnesses said a four-hour battle began with a car bombing and included suicide bombers and Taliban fighters throwing grenades.
Guests were knocked from their beds by the explosions and locked themselves in their rooms or climbed from windows as fighters opened fire.
Three Afghan policemen were killed and six more were among the 38 people wounded in what was described as a well-planned attack.
It began soon after 6.30am with the streets deserted as Afghanistan marked the birth of the Prophet Mohammed.
Abdul Rahman Rahman, the chief of Kabul police, said a car bomb destroyed the Arya Guesthouse, popular with Indian doctors working at the city's Indira Gandhi Child Health Institute. Two other attackers then entered the nearby Park Residence, which also houses visiting foreigners including Indian officials.
One blew himself up, killing three policemen, and the other was shot dead.
Pietro Antonio Colazzo, an Italian diplomatic counsellor, was among the dead. He was shot while telephoning police with information which saved other guests.
"He was killed by the terrorists who realised that he was passing information to police forces," Mr Rahman said.
"He was in a room right behind the attackers and he could see where they were and what they are doing."
The French filmmaker who died, Severin Blanchet (66), was in Kabul to train young Afghans.
Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, said the attacks appeared to be aimed at Indian government officials and medical workers. India is one of Afghanistan's biggest donors, but its presence has provoked opposition and suspicion in Pakistan, which fears encirclement by its larger neighbour.
The Indian embassy in Kabul has twice been hit by car bombings in the past 18 months and one attack was blamed on Pakistan's ISI military spy agency. (©Daily Telegraph, London)