Gunmen Attack Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul

Smoke billows from the Intercontinental hotel during a battle between Afghan security forces and suicide bombers and Taliban insurgents in Kabul June 29, 2011. Ahmad Masood / Reuters

A group of as many as four gunmen attacked the Intercontinental Hotel in the Afghan capital Kabul and were exchanging fire with security forces on Saturday as residents and staff fled.

Hotel manager Ahmad Haris Nayab, who managed to escape unhurt, said the attackers had managed to get inside and people were fleeing amid bursts of gunfire on all sides, but he could say nothing about any casualties.

Afghan interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said details of the raid, which came days after a U.S. embassy warning of possible attacks on hotels in the capital, were unclear, but the attackers appeared to have included suicide bombers.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest in a long series of attacks to hit Kabul.

The hotel, located on a hilltop and heavily protected like most public buildings in the city, was previously attacked by Taliban fighters in 2011.

It is one of Kabul’s two main luxury hotels and is used for events including conferences attended by government officials.

On Thursday, the U.S. embassy in Kabul issued a warning to U.S. citizens, saying “We are aware of reports that extremist groups may be planning an attack against hotels in Kabul.”

Although the NATO-led Resolute Support mission says the Taliban has come under pressure after the United States increased assistance to Afghan security forces and stepped up air strikes against the insurgents, security remains precarious.

As pressure on the battlefield has increased, security officials have warned that the danger of attacks on high profile targets in Kabul and other cities would increase.

While it shares the same name, the hotel in Kabul is not part of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which issued a statement in 2011 saying that “the hotel Inter-continental in Kabul is not part of IHG and has not been since 1980.”

SOURCE: Reuters, Hamid Shalizi