Insurgents strike Afghan hotel, NATO says
From Nick Paton Walsh, CNN
June 22, 2012 — Updated 0240 GMT (1040 HKT)
- The Taliban says it targeted NATO personnel and “debauchery”
- 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) — Afghan and NATO troops were attempting to push back an insurgent attack on a hotel outside Kabul early Friday, with at least one Afghan police officer killed, Afghan and allied officials said.
Kabul Police Chief Mohammed Ayoub Salangi said the standoff began before midnight Thursday (3:30 p.m. ET), when three attackers with a variety of weapons attacked the Spozhmai hotel and restaurant at Lake Qargha, west of the Afghan capital.
Salangi said the hotel hosted an outdoor dinner that drew a large number of Afghans, “including women and children,” and that one police officer was among the dead.
The Taliban, the Islamic fundamentalist militia that once ruled most of the country, said its fighters targeted the hotel because it was hosting NATO personnel and diplomats, as well as “different types of debauchery.”
Salangi said Afghan forces moved against the attackers slowly overnight to avoid civilian casualties.
Friday morning, camouflaged soldiers rode near the scene in military vehicles and helicopters hovered in the sky as shots continued to ring out
“Definitely civilians are stuck in the hotel’s garden, but we can’t say if they are hostages or just caught in the ongoing situation,” Salangi said. “We did not take any action in the dark because of the risk to civilians, but now we have begun our attack and killed one attacker, and injured another.”
There was no immediate indication of any NATO casualties, said Maj. Adam Wojack, a spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.
The attack comes after several days of high-profile strikes aimed at allied troops and Afghan security forces, including bombings in two restive provinces in the country’s east that killed at least 29 people, including three American soldiers, on Wednesday. It also comes nearly a year after an insurgent assault on Kabul’s Hotel Inter-Continental, which left the nine attackers and 12 others dead.
In an e-mail, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the targets were Westerners. He said the attackers were armed with suicide vests, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns.
“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 h
otel and had killed tens of government officials and foreigners, but the insurgents regularly inflate casualty figures.
CNN’s Masoud Popalzai contributed to this report.
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