Taliban militants strike Afghan hotel, take hostages
From Nick Paton Walsh, CNN
June 22, 2012 — Updated 0642 GMT (1442 HKT)
- NEW: Dozens of civilians are rescued, officials say
- Police are moving slowly to avoid hurting civilians, Kabul chief says
- At least one police officer has been killed, he says
- It’s the latest in a string of high-profile strikes this week
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — Taliban militants attacked a hotel near Kabul early Friday, sparking an hourslong gun battle with Afghan and NATO troops to free civilians taken hostage in the deadly siege.
At least three security guards, a police officer and three militants were killed in the standoff, according to Mohammad Ayoub Salangi, the Kabul police chief. Two other attackers are injured and resisting the assault, he said.
The siege is ongoing and at least 47 civilians have been rescued so far, including four women, he said.
Terrified civilians fled when the gunmen struck the Spozhmai hotel around midnight Thursday local time, with some jumping into a nearby lake to avoid the bloodshed. The hotel was hosting an outdoor dinner that drew a large number of Afghans, including women and children.
Afghan forces moved slowly overnight to avoid civilian casualties, the police chief said. Camouflaged soldiers hovered nearby in military vehicles as helicopters flew overhead amid heavy gunfire.
“We did not take any action in the dark because of the risk to civilians, but now we have begun our attack,” Salangi said.
There was no immediate indication of coalition forces casualties, said Maj. Adam Wojack, a spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.
The attack follows strikes aimed at allied troops and Afghan security forces, including Wednesday bombings in two eastern provinces that killed at least 29 people, including three American soldiers.
It also comes nearly a year after an insurgent attack on Kabul’s Hotel Inter-Continental left nine attackers and 12 others dead.
In an e-mail, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the targets were Westerners.
Attackers are armed with suicide vests, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, he said.
“Every night people come here for different types of debauchery, but on Thursday night, the number increases, including foreigners who come here and they hold anti-Islamic ceremonies,” Mujahid said. “Tonight, according to our information, a number of ISAF and embassy diplomats from foreign countries have been invited by some senior Kabul administration officials and are now under attack.”
He said the Taliban were fighting government forces outside the hotel and had killed tens of government officials and foreigners, but the insurgents regularly inflate casualty figures.
The Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist militia, once ruled most of the country.
CNN’s Masoud Popalzai contributed to this report.
Part of complete coverage on
June 20, 2012 — Updated 1748 GMT (0148 HKT)
How did an American end up in a Lebanon hospital treating wounded Syrians from months of escalating violence?
June 20, 2012 — Updated 2334 GMT (0734 HKT)
If Hosni Mubarak were to die soon — as some suggest could happen — it would probably have little impact on the country’s future, experts say.
June 21, 2012 — Updated 1027 GMT (1827 HKT)
A rigorous green certification system is recognizing the next phase of eco design, which its founders describe as “the world’s greenest buildings.”
June 19, 2012 — Updated 1039 GMT (1839 HKT)
The future will emerge at Internet meet Le Web, says Andrew Keen, and it will change our lives.
June 19, 2012 — Updated 1048 GMT (1848 HKT)
A new breed of short-stay, pay-by-the-hour micro-hotels are popping up in airport terminals around the world.
June 21, 2012 — Updated 0240 GMT (1040 HKT)
Mikio Watanabe’s home in Fukushima, Japan, is contaminated with radiation and filled with nightmares of his wife’s horrific suicide.
June 21, 2012 — Updated 0250 GMT (1050 HKT)
Pakistan is facing uncertainty after the country’s Supreme Court effectively removed Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani from office.
June 20, 2012 — Updated 2018 GMT (0418 HKT)
Microsoft has announced its Surface tablets, due out late this year, at a time when security is a growing concern for users of mobile devices.
June 19, 2012 — Updated 1000 GMT (1800 HKT)
Paul Davison, founder of Highlight, says we need to adapt to society-changing tech, despite our fears, and learn to embrace the future.
June 20, 2012 — Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
English Premier League’s Didier Drogba is the latest in a line of high-profile football figures to join the Chinese Super League.
Today’s five most popular stories