Kabul hotel attack killed 40 people: Afghan authorities


KABUL: At least 40 people were killed in the attack on Kabul’s luxury Intercontinental Hotel at the weekend, official figures showed Thursday — almost double the earlier toll released by Afghan authorities.

“The final death toll (among Afghans) from Intercontinental Hotel attack stands at 25,” health ministry spokesman Wahid Majrooh told AFP.

“We don’t know about the foreign fatalities,” he said, adding 12 Afghans had been wounded.

With 15 foreigners already confirmed dead in the attack that began late Saturday that takes the total death toll to 40.

Afghan officials had previously said 22 people were killed in the massacre, the majority of them foreigners.

Six attackers were also killed by security forces, although some reports stated there were only five assailants.

The militants, dressed in army uniforms, launched the assault on the luxury hotel in the Afghan capital in the evening on January 20.

Investigators are still looking into how the militants were able to get through several layers of security at the hotel, which sits on a hilltop overlooking the Afghan capital.

Visitors to the upmarket hotel have described glaring security breaches before the assailants went on a bloody rampage targeting guests, with bags not checked and scanners not working.

Earlier on, the US State Department has confirmed that four US citizens were killed and two others wounded in the recent attack on Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel by Taliban militants that left an estimated 40 people dead, reported by RFE/RL.

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert on January 24 said the State Department would not immediately provide further details out of respect for the relatives of those who died in the January 20 assault.

“We can confirm that there were four US citizens killed and two injured. We offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who were killed and wish for the speedy recovery of those wounded,” Nauert said in a statement.

US officials had previously said that several American citizens were killed and injured, but it did not provide exact figures.

Officials said the gunmen charged through the hallways and sought out foreigners and Afghan officials inside the hotel. More than 150 people, including 41 foreigners, were rescued or managed to escape during the siege.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said on January 21 that six of those killed were Ukrainians, and added that his office was working with Afghan law-enforcement agencies “to clarify the circumstances of this terrorist act.”

However, Ukraine’s ambassador to Tajikistan and Afghanistan, Viktor Nikityuk, told the 112 Ukraine TV channel on January 22 that seven Ukrainian citizens working for KamAir had died in the attack.

A citizen from Kazakhstan also was among the dead, according to a spokesman for the Kazakh Foreign Ministry.

Afghan security officials speculated that the attack was timed to take place as more than 30 provincial officials were at the hotel, attending a conference organized by the Telecommunications Ministry.

Among the dead was Ahmad Farzan, an employee of the High Peace Council, a commission tasked with facilitating peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban and other opposition groups.

An initial investigation showed the insurgents had gained access to the hotel from the north side and stormed its kitchen. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack at the heavily guarded hotel that is popular with foreigners and Afghan officials.

The Interior Ministry blamed the extremist Haqqani network, which is based in Pakistan and allied with the Taliban.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has ordered an investigation and said militant groups were being helped by neighbouring countries.

Afghan officials, along with US President Donald Trump, have accused neighbouring Pakistan of providing a safe haven for terrorists operating in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad denies.

Pakistan also condemned the “brutal terrorist attack” and called for greater cooperation against militants.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

Trump in August unveiled his new strategy for the South Asia region, under which Washington has deployed 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan to train, advise, and assist local security forces, and to carry out counterterrorism missions.

The United States currently has around 14,000 uniformed personnel in the country. Witnesses reported seeing US military vehicles at the site after the attack assisting Afghan security personnel.