The Taliban claimed credit for an attack that killed 14 civilians, including 9 foreigners, at the Park Palace Hotel in Kabul that started last evening and ended this morning. The assault is the latest in a string of attacks that have targeted civilians at upscale hotels in the Afghan capital.
The operation appears to have been launched by one or more fighters who infiltrated security at the hotel. At least one gunman, and possibly three, according to Afghan officials, opened fire on civilians inside the hotel at approximately 9:00 PM last evening Afghan time. One survivor told TOLONews that the gunman he saw was “well dressed.”
Afghan security forces battled the Taliban for seven hours before ending the siege and freeing 54 hostages. Afghan officials and the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) confirmed that 14 civilians, including nine foreigners, were among those killed.
“Among the nine foreigners killed in the attack was an American, a British citizen, an Italian and four Indian nationals,” The Associated Press reported.
The Taliban claimed credit for last night’s assault in a statement released on the Urdu version of Voice of Jihad. The statement, which was written by Zabihullah Mujahid, said that only one fighter, “Mujahid Mohammad Idrees,” conducted the attack, and that reports that three jihadists were involved are “fabricated and baseless.”
Zabihullah Mujahid said the attack was executed as a concert, which he described as promoting “lasciviousness and indecency,” was to be held at the hotel. Afghan singer Altaf Hussain was to perform that night.
UNAMA Human Rights Director, Georgette Gagnon, strongly condemned the Taliban assault.
“These deliberate attacks on civilians are atrocities,” Gagnon said in a statement released on UNAMA’s website. “Taliban statements on avoiding civilian casualties ring hollow when we set them against the latest killings. The Taliban should abide by their commitments and immediately stop deliberately attacking civilians.”
The Taliban have have prioritized attacks against hotels in Kabul, as the locations are often gathering places for foreigners. In March 2014, a suicide assault team attacked the Serena Hotel, killing nine civilians. In June 2012, a Taliban team killed 15 Afghans, including 12 civilians, after taking control of the Spoghmai Hotel. The Taliban called that hotel and others near it a “hub of obscenity and vulgarity.”
In June 2011, a suicide assault team hit the Intercontinental Hotel, killing 13 people. In February 2011, a suicide bomber detonated at the Safi Landmark. And in January 2008, another suicide assault team carried out an attack at the Serena Hotel. Foreigners were the targets of all of those strikes.
The Taliban have vowed to target the “foreign occupiers” and “the stooge regime,” or Afghan government, as part of this year’s spring offensive, which is called Azm, or Resolve.
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