News reports out of the Afghan capital of Kabul say that a group of as many as four terrorists took over the Intercontinental hotel on Saturday night, seizing hostages, shooting at guests and exchanging gunfire with security forces while the building caught fire and everyone fled. It’s still unknown how many innocent people have been killed.
Special forces have killed two of the attackers, interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told the BBC, however, events are still unfolding. News reports have indicated that security forces had cleared the first floor of the hotel, but the attackers were still on the floors above, Rahimi said. A fire has broken out on the third floor where the kitchen is located, he added.
The attack, which began at 9 p.m. local time, comes days after the US embassy in Kabul warned that hotels in the capital could be targeted. The horrific scene was reminiscent of 2011, when the same hotel was attacked by Taliban fighters. The attackers on Saturday appeared to have included suicide bombers.
The Intercontinental is one of Kabul’s two main luxury hotels and is used for events including conferences attended by government officials, according to a report from The Guardian. Foreigners are always staying at the hotel.
Hotel manager Ahmad Haris Nayab managed to escaped unharmed. He told reporters that the attackers had managed to get inside the hotel, and people were fleeing amid bursts of gunfire on all sides.
Afghan interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said details of the raid are still unclear, and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
According to one witness, the attackers took some hotel staff and guests hostage.
Witnesses on Twitter are saying that people were being thrown “from the windows of upper floors, assailants were shouting ‘Allah-u Akbar’.”
A man who has escaped the attack told me attackers were throwing guests from 3rd & 4th floors of Kabul Intercon Hotel. He saw four dead bodies outside the hotel. While firing and throwing people from windows of upper floors, assailants were shouting ‘Allah-u Akbar’, he added
— Ehsanullah Amiri (@euamiri) January 20, 2018
The hotel in Kabul is not part of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), although it shares the same name. IHG issued a statement in 2011 saying that “the hotel Inter-continental in Kabul is not part of IHG and has not been since 1980”.
“These groups may also be targeting public gatherings/demonstrations, government facilities, transportation, markets, and places where foreigners are known to congregate,” according to Reuters.
UPDATE: A group of gunmen have launched an attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, authorities say; kitchen and parts of the hotel are on fire, spokesman tells CBS News https://t.co/KlTkFmZ3aZ pic.twitter.com/OXAxnJCXpg
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 20, 2018
— Nine News Australia (@9NewsAUS) January 20, 2018