Top hotel in Kabul attacked by suicide bombers

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 28, 2011 3:33 PM
Top hotel in Kabul attacked by suicide bombers

By Hamid Shalizi

KABUL (Reuters) - Two suicide bombers attacked a major hotel frequented by Westerners in Afghanistan's capital of Kabul late Tuesday, a police source said, and a Reuters witness said gunfire was heard for several minutes after one blast.

Gunfire tapered off several minutes after the blast was heard, the Reuters witness said. The police source, who asked not to be identified, had initially said a gunfight was still going on.

The police source said a wedding party was underway when the attack happened in or near the Intercontinental Hotel, one of two major hotels in the western part of Kabul often frequented by foreigners.

There were no immediate reports of casualties. The hotel is built on a hillside in Kabul's west with heavy fortifications all round and is often used for conferences and by Western officials visiting the city.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said several fighters from the Islamist group had attacked the hotel, where Afghan and Western officials were supposedly holding security talks.

Mujahid, who spoke to Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location, said heavy casualties had been inflicted. The Taliban often exaggerate the number of casualties in attacks against Western and Afghan government targets.

Police threw up roadblocks immediately after the blast, stopping people from approaching the area, and power was cut in the hotel and surrounding areas, the Reuters witness said.

Violence has flared across Afghanistan since the Taliban announced the start of a spring offensive at the beginning of May, with attacks in areas across the country.

The increase in violence comes as NATO-led forces prepare to hand security responsibility to Afghans in seven areas from next month at the start of a gradual transition process that will end with all foreign troops leaving Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Violence across Afghanistan in 2010 had already its worst levels since the Taliban were ousted by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001.

(Editing by Paul Tait)