Kabul Intercontinental Hotel attack death toll rises drastically, operation not over

Kabul Intercontinental Hotel attack death toll rises drastically, operation not over

KABUL - The Kabul Intercontinental Hotel attack is still in progress as at least two attackers are still inside the hotel and fighting the security forces. It was reported earlier that the death toll is 6 but now the Afghan media sources have revealed at least 18 confirmed casualties however the actual numbers are much higher than that.

Earlier it was reported that after a 17-hour stand-off against insurgents, security forces were finally able to bring the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul under their control and gun down all attackers.

Sources told TOLOnews that at least 18 people were killed in the attack.

Earlier in the day, the Ministry of Interior confirmed that at least five people, including the head of Farah’s telecommunication department, Jamaluddin Padshahkhil, and one foreigner, were killed and six wounded in the siege.

However, about 10 minutes later, TOLOnews journalist Sharif Amiry reported that gunshots and explosives were once again being heard. Danish however said the siege had ended and security forces were conducting a clearance operation.

During the night, reports emerged from survivors who had escaped the siege, with many reporting that the attackers had set fires in the hotel.

Dramatic footage captured by TOLOnews shortly after 8am showed desperate guests trying to escape the fire by swinging off a top-floor balcony while using a blanket. One man is seen plummeting to the ground. No details have been released on his condition.

The siege stated at about 9pm on Saturday night when at least three gunmen stormed the hotel.

Terrified civilians inside the hotel reached out to friends and family appealing for help as the gunmen forced their way through the kitchen and into the hotel with guns blazing. Some eyewitnesses said the gunmen had being going room-to-room in search of guests.

Throughout the night staff and guests managed to escape bit by bit but security forces rescued a total of 126 people by 9.30am on Sunday. Of the people rescued, 41 were foreign nationals.

Dozens of people who had friends and family trapped inside the hotel gathered through the night in below freezing temperatures waiting for news of their loved ones.

Many said they had made contact up to a point but that phones eventually weren’t being answered or were switched off. Desperate for news these families waited for hours.

Throughout the night, except for a two hour lull between 2am and 4am, heavy gunfights and explosions prevailed.

Shortly after 4am additional special forces were sent in. They ramped up the operation and heavy shooting resumed.

This carried on for another few hours and at 7am another batch of special forces and foreign troops moved in.

By 8am five of the six stories of the hotel had been cleared.

By 10am, special forces could be seen sweeping the roof of the hotel while firefighters tried to extinguish the blaze which has caused serious damage to the building.

Saturday night’s siege was not the first for this hotel. In June 2011, nine insurgents carried out a similar attack that lasted for five hours and resulted in the death of 12 people.

President Ashraf Ghani in a statement condemned the attack and called for regional and international consensus against states which sponsor and harbor terrorists.

The president assigned a team to investigate the incident.

Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah also condemned the attack and commended security forces for saving civilians trapped inside the hotel following the incident.

"I commend the Afghan Forces for their bravery & professional action of rescuing over a 100 civilians and killing all terrorists in the insane attack on Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. I condemn the attack & condole with the victim families" Abdullah tweeted.

Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. The group claimed that five attackers were involved in the siege.

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