At least 5 people, including 2 Indians, killed in Kabul guest house siege
At least five people, including two Indian citizens and an American, were killed when a guest house in Kabul popular with foreigners was stormed by several militants who thought the Indian envoy was attending a music concert there, officials said on Thursday.
Special forces from the Afghan Crisis Response Unit regained control of Park Palace Guesthouse in Kolola Pushta area some five hours after the militants stormed it at 8:30pm (local time) on Wednesday.
Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi told journalists early on Thursday that at least five people were killed and as many wounded in the attack. He said police shot dead one attacker but gave few other details.
At least two Indians were killed and three more who were living at the guest house were rescued and sheltering at the Indian Embassy, an unnamed diplomat told Reuters.
A spokesperson for the US Embassy confirmed one American was killed.
At least 44 people trapped inside the guest house - some there for the music concert, others who were having dinner - were rescued by security forces, Rahimi said.
He added that 54 people were rescued by security forces.
Rahimi said that one attacker had been identified and that they were investigating if others were involved in the attack.
"So far we have identified one attacker, but we are looking to see if there were more. We are trying to find out the circumstances in which the attack took place. We need more investigation," he said.
However, his deputy Sayed Gul Agha Rohani told AFP that "three attackers have been killed. They didn't get the chance to detonate their suicide vests."
"We are still trying to identify the victims," he told AFP.
Ahmad Zia Massoud, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s special envoy for good governance, told reporters that militants attacked the guest house thinking the Indian ambassador was present in the compound.
Speaking to reporters near the Park Palace Guesthouse, Massoud said the assault on Park Palace Guesthouse was “likely a political attack” but did not give further details.
Kolola Pushta is home to several international guest houses and hotels and is near both the interior ministry and the Indian Embassy.
A security official told the Khaama Press news agency that the musical event organised in the guest house was due to be attended by Turkish and Indian guests and Afghan nationals.
Reports said 80 to 100 people, including foreigners, were inside the guest house when it was attacked. Shooting continued for several hours as troops engaged the militants. Forces from the Crisis Response Unit finally cleared the two-storey guest house room by room.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Afghan media reports blamed the Taliban for the attack. The Pajhwok Afghan News agency reported the attack was carried out by two to three Taliban fighters.
Shortly after the attack began, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed concern about the situation.
“In the aircraft I got news about the attack in Kabul. Am concerned about the situation & I pray for everyone’s safety,” Modi tweeted while travelling to China on an official visit.
The coordinated assault on the guest house was the second on Wednesday in Afghanistan.
Earlier, gunmen opened fire at a meeting of prominent Muslim clerics in the southern province of Helmand, killing at least seven people, police official Jan Aqa said.
The Ulemma Council, the highest religious authority in the deeply conservative country, came under attack after it repeatedly announced its support for security forces fighting the Taliban.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Helmand attack.
Taliban fighters launched their annual spring offensive across Afghanistan late last month, stepping up attacks on government and foreign targets. This year's offensive marks the first season in which Afghan forces are battling the Taliban without the full support of US-led foreign troops.
Earlier this month, insurgent suicide bombers twice hit buses carrying staff of the attorney general's office in Kabul, killing at least four people.
Wednesday’s assault on the guest house was reminiscent of two attacks by the Taliban in Kabul last year, one on a restaurant and another on a hotel.
Taliban gunmen killed nine people - including three children - dining at a restaurant in the upscale Serena Hotel last year. Two months earlier, attackers stormed a popular Lebanese restaurant and gunned down 21 people, including three United Nations staff and a senior IMF official.