ATTACK ON KABUL INTERCONTI (updated)
A group of six armed insurgents has stormed into Kabul Interconti hotel around 10 pm on 28 June. Around 22.40 local time, we heard a loud single explosion, followed by police cars with sirens approaching the area and heavy but sporadic small arms fire. The group resisted until 4.40 in the morning; the last three attackers had withdrawn to the roof and were killed by two NATO helicopters.
While the Afghan Ministry of Interior reports between eight and eleven casualties, an Afghan journalist visiting the site talk of about 14 dead, mainly Afghans. Two of the hotel’s saloons –Â ‘Kandahar’ and the main Bamian restaurant – have been destroyed. He also claims that three foreigners are amongst the victims, one of the possibly Italian.
The attackers apparently came from two directions, from the front side which is relatively heavily guarded along the access road that winds up the Interconti hill. Others seem to have come across bushwork at the northern side of the hill where a local shrine, Baba-ye Baland (aka Pir-e Baland), is located.
Apparently one of them detonated himself in the hotel’s restaurants, others went to upper floors and – as a Taleban spokesman said – serached for guests, mainly foreigners. Late in the night, rooms on the upper floor had gone upÂ in flames.
MSNBC quoted an AfghanÂ hotel guestÂ whoÂ had been able to escape with his family, who said thatÂ the attack occurred whileÂ many people were having dinner in the hotel restaurant.
A second loud explosion occured at half past midnight, after the security forces had declared the hotel cleared. Also according to MSNBC, the Taliban hadÂ claimed responsibility for the attack through a telephone call to the AP within an hour or so of the attack’s start.
The attack happens only one day after a high-ranking meeting in Kabul ended, of the so-called contact group which consists of some 50Â countries’ special envoys for Afghanistan and/or Pakistan and which dealt with preparations forÂ an international foreign-minister level conference on Afghanistan, dubbed Bonn 2, to be held on 5 December this year.
Target of the attack wereÂ apparently participants of an Afghan three-dayÂ high-security governmental meeting in the transition context,Â for which foreign participants were also expected. Governors from some Northern province were reported already in the hotel, as was the head of the Kabul proviincial council. The meeting will surely not be held in the hotel.
In the coming month, NATO will start transfering security responsibility to the Afghan government in three provinces and four cities/towns; Kabul (without Sarobi district), Bamian and Panjsher as well as Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, Lashkargah and Mehtarlam. Kabul city had already been handed over, very low-key, in 2008.