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40 Dead in Kabul Hotel Attack, Militants Killed, Crisis Ends

Afghan forces ended the Intercontinental Hotel siege with all gunmen killed, and an estimated 40 civilians dead.

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40 Dead in  Kabul Hotel Attack, Militants Killed, Crisis Ends
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Armed militants, who stormed Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel late on Saturday, 20 January, killed at least 40 people and wounded many more, with the final toll of dead and wounded estimated to be even higher.

Afghan forces ended the Intercontinental Hotel siege with all five gunmen getting killed, hours after insurgents stormed the luxury hotel on 20 January.

PTI reported that 40 people had been confirmed dead.

Wahid Majroh, a spokesman for the ministry of public health, said that at least 19 bodies had been brought into city hospitals, with six identified as foreigners, on 21 January.

However a senior Afghan security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorised to talk to the media, said the death toll was over 40 and might climb higher. The dead included 25 afghan citizens, hotel staff, guests as well as members of the security forces who fought the attackers, and as many as 15 foreigners.
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MEA Condemns Attack

India’s MEA condemned the terrorist attack on the hotel and expressed its condolences to the families of those killed in a statement on 21 January. A statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs said:

Reports about attack having being carried out by terrorists from the Haqqani Network is a matter of serious concern. They bring to the fore once again the need to effectively deal with safe havens and sanctuaries that terrorists find in our neighbourhood. India stands with the government and the people of Afghanistan in bringing the perpetrators of these terrorist attacks and their supporters to justice.
MEA Statement

US & UN Condemn Attack

The US and the UN have strongly condemned the terror attack that left at least 40 people dead.

We strongly condemn the attack at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. The US applauds the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces for their bravery in responding to the attack. We are in contact with Afghan authorities regarding their investigation of the incident.
Rex Tillerson, US Secretary of State 

Stating that the US stands with the government and the people of Afghanistan, he said the US remains firmly committed to supporting Afghan efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity for their country.

"Violence like what we witnessed on 20 January has no place in Afghanistan, or anywhere else in the world," Tillerson said, in a statement on 21 January.

In a statement on 21 January, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned the attack.

The Secretary-General extends his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured. He expresses his solidarity with the Government and people of Afghanistan.
Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General
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Attack Underlines City’s Vulnerability

Hotel manager Ahmad Haris Nayab, who escaped unhurt, said the attackers had got into the main part of the hotel through a kitchen, and people tried to get out amid bursts of gunfire.

More than 150 guests were able to flee as parts of the building caught fire, with some shimmying down sheets tied together and dropped from upper-floor windows, and others rescued by Afghan forces.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.  

Abdul Rahman Naseri, a guest who was at the hotel for a conference, was in the hall of the hotel when he saw four gunmen dressed in army uniforms.

They were shouting in Pashto (language), ‘Don’t leave any of them alive, good or bad’. ‘Shoot and kill them all,’ one of them shouted. I ran to my room on the second floor. I opened the window and tried to get out using a tree but the branch broke and I fell to the ground. I hurt my back and broke a leg. 
Abdul Rahman Naseri, guest

The raid was the latest in a series of attacks that have underlined the city's vulnerability and the ability of militants to mount high-profile operations aimed at undermining confidence in the Western-backed government.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement the attack was carried out by five fighters.

A statement from the interior ministry put the blame on the Haqqani network, a group affiliated with the Taliban, which claimed a previous attack on the hotel in 2011.

Afghan security personnel stand guard as smoke rises from the Intercontinental Hotel after an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Afghan security personnel stand guard as smoke rises from the Intercontinental Hotel after an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan.
(Photo: AP)
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US Warning

The attack came days after a United Nations Security Council visit to Kabul to allow senior representatives of member states to assess the situation in Afghanistan.

Many details of the incident were still unclear, but Interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said a private company had taken over security about three weeks prior to the attack.

The US embassy in Kabul had issued a warning to US citizens on 18 January, saying, “We are aware of reports that extremist groups may be planning an attack against hotels in Kabul.”

Captain Tom Gresback, spokesman for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, said they were also watching closely but it was not clear whether international forces took part in suppressing the attack.

"Afghan National Defense and Security Forces are leading the response efforts. According to initial reports, no Resolute Support or (US forces) members were injured in this incident," he said in an emailed statement.

Although the NATO-led Resolute Support mission says the Taliban has come under pressure after the United States increased assistance to Afghan security forces and stepped up air strikes against insurgents, security remains precarious.

As pressure on the battlefield has increased, security officials have warned that the danger of attacks on high-profile targets in Kabul and other cities would increase.

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After repeated attacks in Kabul, notably an incident last May in which a truck bomber killed at least 150 people outside the German embassy, security has been further tightened.

While it shares the same name, the hotel in Kabul is not part of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which issued a statement in 2011 saying that "the hotel Inter-continental in Kabul is not part of IHG and has not been since 1980".

(With inputs from Reuters & PTI)

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