Four gunmen killed in attack on luxury Kabul hotel
An Afghan policeman stands near the security perimeter of the Serena hotel in Kabul late on March 20, 2014 - by Roberto Schmidt
Just two weeks before Afghanistan's presidential elections, the attackers hid small pistols in their socks and penetrated several layers of security at the Serena hotel, a prestigious venue favoured by foreign visitors to the Afghan capital.
A spokesman for the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban militants have vowed a campaign of violence to disrupt the Afghan election on April 5.
"The four young attackers entered the hotel at about 6 pm pretending to be guests and started to attack at 9 pm," Sediq Sediqqi, the interior ministry spokesman, told reporters.
"Two guards have been taken to hospital, as well as one foreign national employee of the hotel. All four attackers were gunned down, two of them after they resisted in a bathroom in the hotel."
No guests were reported to have been injured in the attack, during which intense bursts of gunfire erupted inside the hotel as security forces and emergency response teams rushed to the scene.
"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.
The attack occurred on the eve of Nawroz, the Persian New Year which is a major holiday in Afghanistan, and the Serena hotel was hosting special evening celebrations.
The Serena hotel, the most prestigious accommodation in the city, was hit by a Taliban suicide attack in 2008 that left eight people dead.
The gunfire at the hotel on Thursday came on the same day that seven Taliban suicide attackers stormed a police station in the eastern city of Jalalabad killing 10 policemen.
The target of the three-hour truck bomb and gun assault was a police station near the governor's house in Jalalabad.
Ten days ago Taliban leaders vowed to target the election, urging their fighters to attack polling staff, voters and security forces before the vote to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai.
On Tuesday a suicide bomber killed 16 people at a crowded market in the northern province of Faryab. There was no claim of responsibility for that attack.
Previous Afghan elections have been badly marred by violence as the Islamist militants display their opposition to the US-backed polls.
US-led NATO combat troops are withdrawing from the country after 13 years of fighting a fierce Islamist insurgency, which erupted when the Taliban were ousted from power after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
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