7 foreigners among 14 killed in Kabul guesthouse siege

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KABUL: Fourteen people, at least half of them foreigners, were killed in a Taleban attack on a Kabul guesthouse that trapped dozens attending a concert and triggered an hours-long standoff with Afghan forces, officials said Thursday.

Afghan police officers stand guard near the Park Place guesthouse in Kabul early on May 14, 2015.  –  AFP

Four Indians, an American, an Italian and a British-Afghan dual national were among those killed in the overnight siege on the Park Palace, which was about to host a performance by a well-known Afghan singer.

The Taleban claimed responsibility for the seven-hour assault, which triggered explosions and bursts of gunfire. It came as Afghan forces face their first fighting season against the insurgents without the full support of US-led foreign combat troops.

“An attack against civilians gathered for a cultural event in the Park Palace hotel in Kabul killed 14 civilians and injured several others,” the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a statement.

A senior Afghan police official requesting anonymity confirmed the new toll.

Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi earlier said five people including foreigners and Afghans were killed in the attack, but deaths confirmed by overseas governments saw the toll of foreigners rise.

“Fifty-four people were rescued by security forces,” Rahimi added, after a large number of armed personnel swooped on the guesthouse, located in an up-market district and popular with international aid agency workers.

An Indian foreign ministry official said that “unfortunately four Indians have died in the attack as per the information we have so far”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to offer his condolences, saying “we are one when it comes to fighting terror”.

US embassy spokeswoman Monica Cummings said: “Our thoughts are with the families of the victims at this time.”

The British embassy confirmed the death of a British-Afghan dual national, adding in a statement that “the next of kin have been informed and we are providing consular assistance”.

The Taleban, which has stepped up assaults on government and foreign targets, said that the attack was carried out by a single gunman and “planned carefully to target the party in which important people and Americans were attending”.

The attack was also claimed by the Taleban-allied Haqqani network that is believed to be based out of the porous Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.

“One of our suicide squads carried out the raid. We prepared for it for two months and will continue to carry out these attacks,” a senior Haqqani commander in charge of suicide operations told AFP by telephone.

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