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Monday 24 September 2018

Taliban guerrillas target foreigners as 18 die in hotel siege

Afghan security forces stand guard as smoke rises behind them from the charred remains of the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. Photo: REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
Afghan security forces stand guard as smoke rises behind them from the charred remains of the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. Photo: REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Rahim Faeiz in Kabul

At least 18 people were killed during a 13-hour siege after Taliban gunmen in army uniforms stormed a luxury Kabul hotel and targeted foreigners for execution.

At least 14 of the dead were believed to be foreign nationals, among them two Venezuelans and six Ukrainians.

Eyewitnesses described how the gunmen deliberately sought out foreigners as they rampaged through the six-floor Intercontinental Hotel.

One Afghan man told the BBC that he was spared by militants who shouted "Where are the foreigners?" as they ran into the hotel's restaurant about 9pm on Saturday.

The gun battle ended yesterday morning as Afghan special forces killed the last of the six gunmen, who were armed with grenades, automatic weapons and suicide vests.

By 10am, special forces could be seen sweeping the roof of the hotel as firefighters attempted to extinguish a blaze which had ripped through the sixth floor.

About 150 desperate staff and guests managed to escape the building throughout the night, amid heavy gunfire and explosions. One witness told AFP that the hotel's security team fled "without a fight".

Dramatic footage showed people clambering down from upper-floor balconies using bedsheets tied together.

Abdul Rahman Naseri, at the hotel for a major IT conference, described how he saw four gunmen dressed in army uniforms.

"They were shouting 'Don't leave any of them alive, good or bad'. 'Shoot and kill them all,' one of them shouted," Mr Naseri said. "I ran to my room on the second floor. I tried to get out using a tree but the branch broke and I fell. I hurt my back and broke a leg."

Mohammad Musa, who was hiding in his room on the top floor, said: "When the sixth floor caught fire, my roommate told me 'either burn or escape'.

"I got a bed sheet and tied it to the balcony. I tried to come down but I was heavy and my arms were not strong enough. I fell and injured my shoulder and leg. There were dozens of dead bodies lying around me."

The raid was the latest in a series of attacks that have underlined the ability of militants to mount high-profile operations aimed at undermining confidence in the Western-backed government.

Irish Independent

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