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Taliban stage deadly attack on luxury Kabul hotel

© Photo: AFP. Police block a road near the Serena hotel in Kabul.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-21

A journalist working for the AFP news agency was among nine people killed in an attack Thursday on a luxury hotel in central Kabul, Afghan police and government security officials said on Friday.

Sardar Ahmad, a 40-year-old staff reporter and Afghan native, was shot dead along with his wife and two of his three children when Taliban gunmen attacked the Serena hotel on Thursday night after entering with pistols stuffed in their socks.

A total of four foreigners and five Afghans were killed in the attack, according to authorities, with the dead including four women and two children.

The young men entered the Serena hotel at about 6pm, telling guards they were going to dinner.

They then headed to the hotel’s restaurant and began firing indiscriminately at diners, interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told a news conference.

The attack ended around 11:30pm when Afghan security forces killed the last of the attackers, Sediqqi said, adding that most of the hotel guests had been able to take shelter in special safe rooms.

Hotel security under investigation

"I heard some gunshots, and we all were taken by guards to the safe rooms," a front-desk clerk told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Jane Ferguson, an Al Jazeera television journalist staying at the hotel, said on Twitter she had "just got out of Serena hotel safe. Horrible few hours with furniture against my door".

The hotel is considered one of the safest places to stay in Kabul. To enter, guests must pass through an exterior gate and undergo a metal detector search and pat down.

However, it has been targeted by militants in the past, including a Taliban suicide attack in 2008 that left eight people dead.

Sediqqi pointed to a failure of hotel security, as the attackers were able to smuggle six handguns and ammunition inside.

"We are investigating, but our initial conclusion is that a failure of the security structure of the hotel made the attack possible," he said.

"We have been requesting the hotel management to have our public protection force for their keep for the past two years, but they have turned down our offers saying they are confident of their guards in the hotel."

Police station attack

The attack on the hotel came just hours after militants killed 11 people in an audacious suicide bombing on a police station in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

Seven attackers and 10 police officers were killed, authorities said. A university student caught in the crossfire was also killed, and 15 policemen were wounded.

The bombing badly damaged the nearby state-run Afghan radio and television building, shattering its windows.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for both assaults.

“Our people, if they decide to attack any place, they can do it,” he said.

Afghan forces face a huge challenge in securing upcoming elections in what will be a major test of their abilities as foreign troops wind down their combat mission at the end of this year.

The attacks show the Taliban are following through on their threat to use violence to disrupt the April 5 vote, which will be the first democratic transfer of power since the 2001 US-led invasion that ousted the Islamist militant movement. President Hamid Karzai is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-03-21

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