kabul-hotel-attackA top Kabul hotel was stormed by the Taliban which sparked a ferocious battle involving Afghan commandos and a NATO helicopter gunship that left atleast 21 dead including nine attackers.

Frequented by Westerners and Afghan officials, the officials said all of the gunmen were killed during the night time raid on the hilltop Intercontinental Hotel.

The insurgents struck late on Tuesday as the state-owned 1960s hotel was hosting delegates attending an Afghan security conference and a large wedding party.

Among the killed according to the Interior Ministry were nine Afghan civilians-most hotel workers and two police officers and 18 others were wounded. A ninth dead Taliban had been identified and according to the Ministry and the government in Madrid said a Spanish man was also killed at the hotel who works for Turkish airline.

Provincial government officials were present in Kabul for a conference to hand over power from foreign to Afghan security forces. The process starts next month.

President Hamid Karzai reiterated support for the transfer of responsibility for security from foreign to national forces and at the same time damned the attack and praised the work of the Afghan troops. He also stated that this incident was not going to stop the transfer of responsibility.

According to the police, the attackers steered clear of the normally heavily guarded roads snaking up to the hotel, instead picking their way through the trees on the northern slope towards the building around 11:00 pm on Tuesday.

Major Tim James, a spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said that one helicopter was deployed at the request of Afghan authorities.

And Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman said that the militant Islamic group was behind the attack.


Report by Sumit