Top Kabul hotel under attack: police chief

Nov 30, -0001
KABUL: One of Kabul's leading hotels which is popular with foreigners and government officials is under attack by gunmen, the head of police criminal investigations in Kabul told AFP Tuesday.
"It's an attack on the Intercontinental Hotel. There are several gunmen shooting," said Kabul criminal investigations chief Mohammad Zahir, adding that "a number" of police had been wounded.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed the militant Islamist group was behind the attack which he said was targeting foreign guests in the hotel.
Witness Sayed Hussain told AFP he was inside the hotel compound when the attack started.
"I saw five to six men in civilian clothing armed with rifles who started shooting when they entered," he said, speaking close to the scene. "I lay down on the ground and soon after the police arrived."
He added that police and the attackers then traded fire for about 10 to 15 minutes before he heard a loud explosion.
An AFP reporter near the scene also reported hearing at least one explosion and heavy gunfire.
He said the hotel was now in darkness after power in the area had apparently been cut. Traffic had also been diverted from the area and police were out in force with more arriving, he added.
The Intercontinental is one of Kabul's best-known high-end hotels. It is situated on a hill above the city and was established in 1969.
Security at most luxury hotels in Kabul was significantly stepped up after a 2008 attack on the Serena Hotel in the city centre killed seven people including at least three foreigners.
On that occasion, Taliban attackers disguised as police stormed the interior.
The attack comes weeks before foreign forces are expected to start withdrawals from Afghanistan, although security in the capital Kabul is already under the control of Afghan security forces.
Some 10,000 United States troops will leave Afghanistan this year, US President Barack Obama announced last week, ahead of the planned end of foreign combat operations at the end of 2014.
However, some experts question the ability of Afghan security forces to withstand a bloody Taliban insurgency which has run for nearly ten years.
There are currently around 150,000 foreign forces in Afghanistan, roughly 99,000 of them from the United States.
Kabul has been relatively stable in recent months despite frequent security alerts.
But nine people were killed earlier this month when three attackers, at least one of whom was in army uniform, armed with suicide vests and machine guns stormed a police station in the heart of the city. AGENCIES




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