Afghan forces stormed a lakeside hotel in Kabul to retake it from a Taliban suicide assault team that was holding dozens of civilians hostage. The Taliban claimed credit for the attack, calling the hotel and others near it are a “hub of obscenity and vulgarity.”
A four or five-man-strong Taliban team armed with suicide vests, assault rifles, and rocket propelled grenades took over the Spoghmai Hotel, an upscale resort frequented by wealthy Afghans in Kabul, in an attack last night. The Taliban team killed two Afghan security guards at the hotel’s front gate, then took nearly 40 Afghans hostage, including women and children, according to TOLONews. More than 300 people were at the hotel; many escaped by swimming in the lake.
Afghan commandos backed by NATO special operations forces retook control of the hotel 12 hours after the Taliban seized it. One of the Taliban fighters detonated his suicide vest, while the others were killed by Afghan forces. At least 12 Afghan civilians were killed during the siege, according to TOLONews. Reuters reported that 12 to 15 Afghan civilians, two security guards, and a policeman were killed, along with five attackers. The Afghan interior ministry said the Taliban used civilians as human shields during the assault.
The Taliban released a statement on their propaganda website, Voice of Jihad, claiming credit for the attack, and said that “several dozens of the top-level foreign diplomats and military figures and high-ranking puppets” were killed and wounded. Afghan officials have said no foreigners were present at the hotel.
The Taliban justified the suicide assault on the hotel by claiming it was a “hub” of “anti-Islamic” activity.
“The hotels which are seen as hub of obscenity and vulgarity frequented by the lusty foreign and local top-level military and officials to satisfy their impure lust especially on Thursday nights and where anti-Islamic meeting are usually being held,” the statement said.
General John Allen, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the attack “bears the signature” of the Haqqani Network, Reuters reported. The al Qaeda-linked Taliban subgroup commanded by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin has executed other attacks in Kabul, such as one in September 2011, in which its fighters fanned out in the capital, occupied buildings, and targeted the US Embassy, NATO headquarters, and other installations; the Haqqanis also conducted another assault on a hotel in Kabul in June 2011.
Last fall, Admiral Mike Mullen, then the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said evidence linked the June 2011 attack to the Haqqani Network, and that the September attack was supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Afghan intelligence later released phone conversations of Haqqani commanders directing members of the suicide assault team in the June attack. And in November 2011, the Haqqanis released a video commemorating the June attack.
The Haqqani Network has an extensive presence in Kabul, Paktia, and Logar, and coordinates operations in the capital with the so-called 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 have 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. In the US military files that were released by WikiLeaks, Taj Mir Jawad is identified as a key Haqqani Network leader.
The Taliban have launched 10 high-profile operations in Kabul over the past year. The targets have been ISAF headquarters, Afghan government and security installations, hotels, members of the Afghan High Peace Council and government, and even a mosque.
Major Taliban attacks in Kabul since June 2011:
June 22, 2012 – A suicide assault team took control of the Spoghmai Hotel.
May 13, 2012 – The Mullah Dadullah Front assassinated a senior member of Afghan High Peace Council member.
May 2, 2012 – A suicide assault team targeted a civilians logistics compound.
April 22, 2012 – Taliban assault teams targeted seven different locations in the Wazir Akbar Khan district, which hosts foreign embassies, an ISAF base, and other sensitive installations. The attack was launched in conjunction with attacks in three other provinces.
Dec. 6, 2011 – A suicide bomber killed more than 50 Shia worshippers outside a mosque in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Sept. 20, 2011 – A suicide bomber killed Burhanuddin Rabbani, the chief of the Afghan High Peace Council and former president of Afghanistan.
Sept. 13, 2011 – The Taliban launched a complex daylight attack on the US embassy and NATO headquarters, as well as Afghan police stations, in a secured area of Kabul.
July 17, 2011 – Jan Mohammad Khan, the former governor of Uruzgan province who had become one of President Karzai’s top advisers, and Mohammad Hashim Watanwal, a parliamentarian from Uruzgan, were among several people who were killed in a complex attack.
June 28, 2011 – A Haqqani network suicide assault team stormed the Intercontinental Hotel, killing 11 civilians and two policemen.
June 18, 2011 – A suicide assault team killed nine people during an assault on a police station near the finance ministry.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.