Taleban truck bomb hits hotel for foreigners in Kabul

The remains of the Northgate hotel in Kabul after it was hit by a Taleban truck bomb in the early hours of yesterday.
The remains of the Northgate hotel in Kabul after it was hit by a Taleban truck bomb in the early hours of yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

KABUL • A powerful Taleban truck bomb struck a hotel for foreigners in Kabul yesterday, triggering a seven-hour gun-and-bomb assault that highlights the deteriorating security situation in the Afghan capital.

The guests and staff of Northgate hotel were unharmed, but one policeman was killed after the bombing, which rattled windows several kilometres away and paved the way for armed insurgents to enter the heavily guarded facility close to Kabul airport.

"A truck bomb packed with explosives struck the outer wall of the hotel," said Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi.

"One policeman lost his life and three others were wounded but none of the hotel staff or guests were hurt. Three Taleban fighters, including the bomber, were killed."

Afghan commandos set up a tight security cordon around the luxury hotel as gunfire and grenade explosions rocked the area after the attack began in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Local TV station Tolo cited a source inside the facility as saying that all the staff and guests - including 11 foreigners - hunkered down in safe rooms all through the night.

It added that Nato special forces had overseen the clearance operation at the hotel, which had been fortified with blast walls, watchtowers and sniffer dogs.

Taleban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons blasted their way into the compound after the truck bomb went off.

He claimed that more than 100 "American invaders" were killed and wounded in the assault. The Taleban routinely exaggerate the toll from their attacks.

The compound was previously attacked in July 2013. And earlier this month, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants claimed twin bombings that left 80 people dead in the Afghan capital, the deadliest attack in the city since the Taleban was ousted from power in 2001.

The assault comes as the Taleban ramps up its annual summer offensive after a brief lull during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which ended in early July.

The latest attacks in Kabul are a grim indicator of growing insecurity in Afghanistan, which has resulted in large civilian casualties.

Between January and June, 1,601 civilians were killed and 3,565 wounded - a 4 per cent increase in casualties compared with the same period last year, said the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2016, with the headline 'Taleban truck bomb hits hotel for foreigners in Kabul'. Print Edition | Subscribe