A TALEBAN attack on a Kabul guesthouse has left 14 people dead, including nine foreigners, in the most brazen assault by the insurgents in the Afghan capital since the start of their spring offensive.
Among the nine foreigners killed in Wednesday’s attack, seven were men and two were women, according to a government official. The foreigners killed included a Briton, an American, an Italian, four Indian nationals and two Pakistanis.
Gunmen stormed the restaurant of the Park Palace Hotel in the Afghan capital as it was hosting a party for foreigners on Wednesday evening, and authorities said the victims were killed during an hours-long siege that ended early yesterday.
At least 54 hostages were rescued, Afghan officials said.
Five Afghans were also among the dead – four men and one woman – and seven were wounded, including one Afghan policeman.
The UN mission in Afghanistan condemned the assault, saying in a statement that it was an “atrocity”. “Taleban statements on avoiding civilian casualties ring hollow when we set them against the latest killings,” said Georgette Gagnon, human rights director of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama).
The Taleban claimed responsibility for the attack. The group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in an email distributed to media that the hotel was targeted because of the presence of foreigners, including Americans.
In the claim, he said only one attacker was involved, armed with a Kalashnikov rifle, a suicide vest and a pistol – not three as the Afghan government reported. The Taleban often exaggerate their claims.
Afghan police kept the hotel cordoned off yesterday. Earlier, they said all the attackers were killed in the shootout with security troops.
The attack began at around 8:30pm local time, according to Kabul police chief General Abdul Rahman Rahimi.
US embassy spokeswoman Monica Cummings said in an email statement that a US citizen was killed in the attack, although she had no further details and did not identify the victim.
Ms Cummings said the US embassy was in close contact with Afghan authorities and was working to obtain more information. “Our thoughts are with the families of the victims,” she said.
India’s ambassador Amar Sinha confirmed that four Indian nationals were also among the dead – three men and a woman.
He said they were among a total of 11 Indians resident at the guesthouse, none of whom are embassy personnel.
The guesthouse had about 100 residents, he said.