Hotel raid death toll rises
Posted 22 minutes ago
The death toll from yesterday's Taliban assault on a Kabul hotel has risen, with authorities saying 21 people, including the nine attackers, were killed.
Heavily armed Taliban militants stormed the Intercontinental Hotel, sparking a ferocious battle involving Afghan commandos, New Zealand special forces and a NATO helicopter gunship.
Officials said all of the gunmen were killed during the night-time raid on the hilltop hotel, which is frequented by Westerners and Afghan officials.
The state-owned 1960s hotel, which is not part of the global InterContinental chain, was hosting delegates attending an Afghan security conference and a large wedding party when the insurgents struck.
The interior ministry said nine Afghan civilians - mostly hotel workers - and two police officers were killed in the brazen assault and another 18 people were wounded. It said a ninth dead Taliban militant had been identified.
The ministry and the government in Madrid said a Spanish man - reportedly a pilot working for a Turkish airline - was also killed at the hotel.
Interior ministry spokesman Seddiq Seddiqi said the slain hotel workers had been on the first floor and in the lobby at the time of the attack.
Among those staying at the hotel were provincial government officials who were in Kabul for a conference on the handover of power from foreign to Afghan security forces. The process starts next month.
The attackers steered clear of the normally heavily guarded road 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, police said.
Panicked guests were told to stay in their rooms as the attackers, thought to have suicide vests, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, roamed through the building for about four hours before the raid was quelled.
Major Tim James, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said ISAF deployed one helicopter at the request of Afghan authorities which circled the hotel, opening fire on a number of insurgents wearing suicide vests.
"We've had reports that there were a number of explosions caused either by the insurgents detonating themselves or the engagement by the helicopter causing that (suicide vests) to explode," he said.
Witnesses identified the NATO aircraft as an Apache attack helicopter.
Wednesday, June 29
From AFP via Australia's ABC News website: