Kabul’s Inter-Continental hotel is seen in the dark as tracer bullets are shot during an attack on Wednesday. Photo by Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images
Three or four suicide bombers blew themselves up inside the Inter-Continental hotel on the western outskirts of Kabul Tuesday night, according to Afghan Ministry officials quoted by The Associated Press, setting off a battle between police and gunmen. Reporters on the scene said gunfire could be seen on the hotel’s rooftop, and witnesses reported gunshots inside the hotel. The hotel is popular with foreign visitors and political leaders.
Updated 7:44 p.m. ET | The American-led coalition said two NATO helicopters killed three gunmen atop the hotel following four massive explosions there. Coalition spokesman Jason Waggoner said the helicopters fired early Wednesday on the roof where militants had taken up positions. He said they killed three gunmen and that Afghan security forces clearing the hotel worked their way up to the roof and engaged the remaining insurgents, the AP reported.
All the insurgents at the hotel have been killed, the Afghan interior ministry said. “We believe between six and seven attackers have been killed,” Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told Reuters. “All have been killed.”
Updated 9:15 p.m. ET | Daoud Amin, the deputy police chief in Kabul, told the AP that seven people died and two policemen and six civilians were wounded, but the attackers were not part of that count.
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility, as it has for several attacks following the May 2 killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Recent attacks have targeted a police station, military hospital and the defense ministry, where an insurgent dressed in an Afghan army uniform opened fire inside the building.
The attack has been preceded by several in recent years. According to the AP:
>In January 2008, militants stormed Kabul’s most popular luxury hotel, the Serena, hunting down Westerners who cowered in a gym during a coordinated assault that killed eight people. An American, a Norwegian journalist and a Philippine woman were among the dead.
A suicide car bomber in December 2009, struck near the home of a former Afghan vice president and a hotel frequented by Westerners, killing eight people and wounding nearly 40 in a neighborhood considered one of Kabul’s safest.
And in February 2010, insurgents struck two residential hotels in the heart of Kabul, killing 20 people including seven Indians, a French filmmaker and an Italian diplomat.