19 dead in terrorist attack on prominent Kabul hotel

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN Eleven civilians and eight suicide bombers are dead after an attack on Hotel Inter-Continental Kabul, one of Afghanistan’s most upscale hotels and one frequented by international visitors.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack on the 200-key hotel, which opened in 1969 under what is now IHG’s InterContinental Hotels & Resorts brand but which has been an independent property since 1980.

The standoff, which began late Tuesday and lasted about five hours, ended after NATO helicopters fired missiles to kill three suicide bombers on the roof. The 11 civilians killed include an Afghan judge, five hotel workers and three Afghan police, A Spanish citizen is also among those killed. Eighteen others were wounded.

Security is typically tight at the hotel, as it is throughout much of the Afghanistan capital, but especially this week, as Kabul is in the midst of an international summit to transition to governance independent of U.S. occupation. Guests are required to pass through four checkpoints to access the hotel—a roadblock, guards at the bottom of a hill and then another checkpoint, before being screened for weapons.

Authorities are investigating how the militants, outfitted with explosive vests and carrying anti-aircraft weapons and grenade launchers, were able to pass through security undetected. Latifullah Mashal, spokesman of Afghan National Directorate for Security, tells The Associated Press that the attackers may have found a loophole in the security procedures. “So far, we don’t know how they infiltrated. The intelligence service and the Ministry of Interior will jointly investigate this. We do have a few clues,” he says.