A Taliban suicide assault team attacked a hotel frequented by foreigners in the Afghan capital of Kabul. Initial reports indicate that 13 people and seven Taliban fighters may have been killed.
A heavily armed Taliban assault team, estimated at seven fighters strong, penetrated several rings of security at the Intercontinental and have entered the hotel. The assault team then fanned out in the hotel and searched for the guests, many of whom are foreigners. Many of the hotel guests were in the restaurant at the time of the attack.
Afghan security forces surrounded the hotel, cut off power, and engaged the remaining Taliban fighters. Three Taliban snipers opened fire on security forces using rocket-propelled grenades and a rifle from the rooftop. Coalition helicopters were called in to engage and kill the fighters on the rooftop. All seven Taliban fighters were killed after Afghan forces cleared the hotel.
The Taliban assault team killed 11 civilians, including one foreigner, a Spanish airline pilot, and two Afghan policemen. Two Special Air Services soldiers from New Zeeland who serve as mentors to Afghan forces were wounded during the operation to clear the building.
The Taliban, via their spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed credit for the attack in a statement released to the press.
“Our muj [mujahideen or fighters] entered the hotel and they’ve gone through several stories of the building and they are breaking into each room and they are targeting the 300 Afghans and foreigners who are staying,” Mujahid said, according to The New York Times.
The attack took place just one day before a conference discussing the handover of security to Afghan forces was to have taken place at a government center near the Intercontinental.
Today’s suicide attack was carried out by the Kabul Attack Network, which is made up of fighters from the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, and cooperates with terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and al Qaeda. Top Afghan intelligence officials have linked the Kabul Attack Network to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate as well. The network’s tentacles extend outward from Kabul into the surrounding provinces of Logar, Wardak, Nangarhar, Kapisa, Ghazni, and Zabul, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.
The Kabul Attack Network is led by Dawood (or Daud) and Taj Mir Jawad, military and intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. Dawood is the Taliban’s shadow governor for Kabul, while Taj Mir Jawad is a top commander in the Haqqani Network.
The Taliban have prioritized attacks against hotels in Kabul. In February, a suicide bomber detonated at the Safi Landmark. And in January 2008, a suicide assault team carried out an attack similar to today’s at the Serena Hotel. Foreigners were the targets of both strikes.
Today’s attack is the second major strike in Kabul this month. On June 18, a heavily armed three-man-strong suicide assault team dressed in military uniforms attacked a police station in the 1st district in Kabul, near the Finance Ministry. Nine people were killed in the attack.
The Taliban have carried out two other major suicide attacks in the capital since the beginning of April. On May 21, a suicide bomber detonated his vest at a hospital that is used to treat Afghan soldiers. Six people were killed in the blast. And on April 2, a suicide assault team attempted to storm Camp Phoenix, a NATO base. The suicide bombers were defeated by US troops guarding the perimeter.