June 22, 2012 - 10:18 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Gunmen took scores of hostages at a popular lakeside hotel on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, police said on Friday, June 22, during a deadly attack lasting several hours that underscored the Taliban's potency despite more than a decade of war, according to Reuters.
At least three militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns attacked the exclusive Spozhmai hotel in the Qargha Lake recreation area around midnight on Thursday, bursting into a party and shooting dead hotel guards.
Many terrified guests jumped into the lake in darkness to escape the carnage, in which at least nine people were killed, including six civilians, Afghan officials and residents said.
Elite Afghan quick-response police backed by NATO troops had freed at least 35 hostages and killed two gunmen in an operation that only began in earnest after sunrise to help security forces avoid unnecessary civilian deaths in night-time confusion.
At least two of the militants were believed to be still fighting from inside the hotel, possibly holding more people hostage, said Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, as explosions and gunfire continued to rock the area.
Three hotel guards were killed, along with one policeman. At least six Afghan civilians were also thought to have been killed in the attack, he said, although access to the area was blocked by security forces and details were still sketchy.
Two NATO attack helicopters could be seen prowling over the single-storey hotel building and a balcony popular with guests for its sunset views.
The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, complaining wealthy Afghans and foreigners used the hotel, about 10 km (6 miles) from the centre of Kabul, to have "wild parties" in the lead-up to the Friday religious day holiday.