Militants Storm Kabul Hotel, Killing 11

Posted June 29th, 2011 at 9:00 am (UTC-5)
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In Afghanistan, heavily-armed militants have stormed one of Kabul's landmark hotels in an overnight attack that killed at least 11 civilians and police officers.

The five-hour siege of the Inter-Continental Hotel ended early Wednesday after all nine attackers either blew themselves up or were killed by Afghan security forces, with the help of NATO.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which began late Tuesday when the attackers penetrated the fortified hotel and set off several explosions. Those killed included Afghan hotel workers, police officers, and one Spanish guest.

After hours of fighting, a NATO helicopter killed the last of the gunmen, who had taken up positions on the hotel's roof.

The attack, which also wounded eight people, came on the eve of a conference to discuss the gradual handover of security in Afghanistan from international to Afghan forces. Several Afghan provincial officials taking part in the conference were staying at the Inter-Continental.

The hotel, built on a hill, was for years the Afghan capital's main hotel, and is used by foreigners.

The last major attack on a Kabul hotel was in 2008, when militants stormed the luxury Serena hotel in the center of the city, killing eight people in a coordinated assault.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday condemned the attack on the Inter-Continental as a “ruthless act of terror.” In a statement, he praised the rapid response by security forces and said the attack will not stop the security transition process.

NATO joined the Afghan leader in condemning the “cowardly attack” on Afghan civilians. A coalition spokesman also said the attack will “do nothing” to prevent the security transition process from going forward.

Afghan forces are due to take security control of seven areas in Afghanistan beginning in July.

All foreign combat troops are expected to complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan and transfer security control to local forces by the end of 2014.

U.S. President Barack Obama announced last week that 10,000 U.S. troops will be pulled out by the end of this year, with 23,000 more leaving Afghanistan by September 2012.

Separately, NATO said an insurgent attack killed one of its service members in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday.