A security source told TOLOnews on condition of anonymity on Monday that the heavily-armed insurgents who stormed the Intercontinental Hotel, with a vehicle full of explosives, managed to access the facility without being searched at the main gate.
The source said that the security cameras show that the vehicle and passengers were not stopped and searched at any point after entering the premises.
Meanwhile Zamarai Hamdard, Herat’s head of Telecom Regulatory Authority of Afghanistan (ATRA), who was one of the survivors, said that on the day of the attack weapons belonging to attackers checked in to the hotel had been delivered to their rooms. He said additional insurgents managed to gain access to the kitchen by breaking one of the windows.
Hamdard said he had walked past some of the attackers in a hotel corridor earlier in the day.
“We came to the hotel on a ministry of communication program at two o’clock and from the very first gate to the last one our luggage was not searched and we were searched very basically,” said Hamdard.
During the 17-hour siege, the hotel also caught fire – causing serious damage. However, on Tuesday, security forces kept journalists away and would not let them enter the building, citing investigations as the reason.
TOLOnews reporter Sharif Amiry said that a day after the attack, ambulances were still removing bodies from the hotel.
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) said that initial investigations indicate that the attack on the hotel was conducted by Haqqani Network, which has links to the Taliban – this despite Taliban’s claims regarding responsibility.
“Our initial intelligence reveals that the attack was carried out by the Haqqani Network and organized outside the country,” said Najib Danish, MoI spokesman.
Meanwhile a number of people who had been staying at the hotel on Monday went to retrieve their luggage – but they were also turned away.
“I saw one of the attackers who came from the hotel’s main entrance gate and began shooting,” said Nasar Ahmad Haidari, Badakhshan’s head of Telecom Regulatory Authority of Afghanistan (ATRA).
“After 40 minutes the security forces reached the hotel and helped us,” said Abdul Ghani Bahishti, head of Telecom Regulatory Authority of Afghanistan (ATRA) from Bamiyan.
Strict security is in place around the hotel and only a few people are being allowed inside.
“I've been a resident in the area for forty years, but so far I have not seen the second floor of this hotel, so how do these suicide bombers know all about this hotel? Be sure there is something else,” said Sayed Shafiqullah a resident.
During the operation on Sunday, security forces found the explosive-laden vehicle, which they later detonated in a controlled environment.
This comes after gunmen stormed the hotel at about 9pm on Saturday night. By 8.30am on Sunday the situation still had not been brought under complete control.
Heavy gunfire and explosions were heard throughout the night as special forces, including the Crisis Response Unit, tried to end the siege.