Gunmen in army uniforms stormed Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel late on Saturday and battled Afghan Special Forces through the night killed more than 30 people and wounded many more, although the final toll of dead and wounded may still be higher, Reuters reports.
BBC News, citing an eyewitness, said the gumen were specifically looking for foreigners.
Fourteen of those killed were foreigners, the British broadcaster said.
They included nine Ukrainians, one German, one Greek and one Kazakh citizen, Kabul police told the BBC. Two were still identified.
The Taliban, which attacked the same hotel in 2011, claimed responsibility for the attack, Reuters reported, citing a statement from the group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid.
Wahid Majroh, a spokesman for the ministry of public health, said that 19 bodies had been brought into city hospitals, with six identified as foreigners.
However, a senior Afghan security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said the death toll was over 30 and might climb higher, according to Reuters.
The dead included hotel staff and guests as well as members of the security forces who fought the attackers.
All five attackers were also killed, interior ministry spokesman Najib Danesh said.
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.
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.
Local airline Kam Air said around 40 of its pilots and air crew, many of whom are foreigners, were staying in the hotel and as many as 10 had been killed. Local media reports said the dead included Venezuelans and Ukrainians.
Zamari Kamgar, the airline’s deputy director, said it was still trying to locate staff.
A statement from the interior ministry put the blame on the Haqqani network, a group affiliated with the Taliban that is notorious for its attacks on urban targets.
Even after officials said the attack was over, sporadic gunshots and explosions could be heard from the site.
As day broke on Sunday, thick clouds of black smoke poured from the building, an imposing 1960s structure set on a hilltop and heavily protected like most public buildings in Kabul.
The Intercontinental is one of two main luxury hotels in the city and had been due to host an information technology conference on Sunday. More than 100 IT managers and engineers were on site when the attack took place, said Ahmad Waheed, an official at the telecommunications ministry.
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