Nine dead in gun attack on Kabul hotel

A gunman broke into a hotel in Kabul in Thursday evening and attacked diners, killing nine people.  Two children were among the dead along with four foreign nationals.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack which saw the gunmen killed by special forces. The Afghan government also said that the ceasefire between Pakistan and the Taliban has allowed the terrorists to focus on Afghanistan again.

This is a change from the normal stance of the Afghans who usually do no criticise Pakistan or are unwilling to voice any belief connecting the Taliban violence and their neighbours.  But Interior Minster spokesman Sediq Sediqi was very specific in his thoughts on the matter.

Teenage gunmen

The four gunmen, believed to be just teenagers, entered the Serena Hotel, a five star hotel popular with foreigners, with weapons hidden in their socks.  They entered around 18:00 local time under the ruse of being diners at a buffet to mark Nowruz, the Spring Equinox and start of the new year.  Instead, they hid in the toilet for three hours then came out shooting.

Among those killed were two women from Canada and New Zealand, two men from India and Pakistan and the rest were Afghans.  One source stated that a journalist had died in the attack along with his wife and the two children two died.

Six others were injured in the attack, including a MP, who was shot in the stomach, leg and the face.

The Taliban claimed that the gunmen were armed with heavy and light weapons as well as suicide vests, but only gunfire has been reported to have been heard during the attack.

Hotel location

The Serena Hotel stands less than 1km from key government ministries and the presidential palace which currently houses UN staff monitoring next months elections.  It is not the first time the hotel has been targeted by the Taliban due to its popularity with UN staff and diplomats as well as Afghan leaders.

The attack follows just hours after eleven people were killed by militants in an attack to the east of the country on a police station.  A car filled with explosives was blown up near the palatial residence of the province governor of Nangarhar.  Two more explosions were heard while six gunmen rushed into the station.  A battle followed for nearly four hours and ended with ten dead officers as well as a student caught in the crossfire as well as seven attackers.

Elections

The presidential election is due on 5th April, and the Taliban is already threatening to disrupt it.  It is the first democratic election in the country since the 2001 invasion which ousted the Islamic militant movement which was in control.

Under the constitution, President Karzai cannot stand for another term so the search is on for his successor, who will lead the country for the following five years.  During this term, the US and most of the allied forces will be leaving the country.  Part of this process began this week with the release of dozens of prisoners held by foreign troops.

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