Attackers target hotels catering to foreigners; Taliban claims responsibility
Afghan military personnel rush past a Kabul city center shopping mall during a firefight with the Taliban in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2010 (Photo credit: Ahmad Masood / Reuters)
NBC News and The Associated Press
February 26, 2010
KABUL, Afghanistan – Insurgents struck in the heart of the Afghan capital Friday with suicide attackers and a car bomb, targeting hotels used by foreigners and killing at least 16 people and wounding dozens, police said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks, which Afghan President Hamid Karzai said were aimed at Indians working in Kabul.
The Taliban has long opposed India’s involvement in the country and its ties to the Northern Alliance that helped the U.S. oust the Taliban regime in 2001 and formed the backbone of Karzai’s government.
Six Indians were killed in the attacks, a spokesman for the country’s foreign ministry said, revising the number from the ministry’s original estimate of up to nine Indians dead. An Italian diplomat and a French filmmaker were also among the dead. Three Afghan police were killed, and six more officers were among the 36 people wounded, Afghan government officials said.
The four-hour assault began about 6:30 a.m. with a car bombing that leveled a residential hotel used by Indian doctors. A series of explosions and gunbattles left blood and debris in the rain-slicked streets and underscored the militants’ ability to strike in the heavily defended capital even as NATO marshals its forces against them in the volatile south. …
Bombers, gunmen strike heart of Kabul
Multiple explosions and deadly battles bring chaos to the Afghan capital.
Attack follows U.S. offensive
The Kabul attacks came two weeks into a major offensive against the southern Taliban stronghold of Marjah, where thousands of U.S., Afghan and NATO soldiers are battling to drive out insurgents. The British government said one of its soldiers was killed Friday by an explosion while on a foot patrol – the 14th NATO service member to die in the operation.
In recent weeks, more than two dozen senior and midlevel Taliban figures have been detained in Pakistan, suggesting the attacks in the capital could be a way for the militants to show the insurgency remains potent. …
The Indian Embassy in Kabul has been the target of two major attacks, one in July 2008 that killed more than 60 and another last October that killed 17. …
Kabul Police Chief Abdul Rahman Rahman told reporters the attacks started with a car bomb that exploded outside the Arya Guesthouse where Indian doctors stay. …
The blast leveled the building, also known as the Hamid Guesthouse. After the car bombing, a suicide attacker detonated his vest of explosives outside the demolished building.
Two other attackers then entered a second hotel known as Park Residence. Police surrounded the building. One of them holed himself up in a room and then blew himself up, killing three police officers and wounding six others. The other attacker was shot dead by police. …
First attack since Jan. 18
It was the first attack in the Afghan capital since Jan. 18, when teams of suicide bombers and gunmen targeted government buildings, leaving 12 dead, including seven attackers. On Dec. 15, a suicide car bomber hit near a hotel frequented by foreigners, killing eight people.
That followed an October attack on a small residential hotel that housed a number of U.N. election workers. Gunmen with suicide vests stormed the building, killing five U.N. staff.
India is among the largest economic donors to Afghanistan apart from countries that have sent troops to the NATO-led mission. India is seeking regional allies and access to oil- and gas-rich central Asia.
India’s growing role here is strongly opposed by Pakistan, which wants a friendly government without ties to its archrival, and by the Taliban. Many of the Islamic extremist groups in the region have been fighting the Indians for years in Indian-controlled parts of Kashmir. …
The Park Residence hotel in Kabul, blown up on Feb. 26, 2010, was a favorite of foreigners, including Newsweek reporters. (Photo: Behrouz Mehri / AFP — Getty Images)
Related reports on this site
Taliban Siege Rattles Kabul (Jan. 19, 2010)
Escalating Afghanistan Violence (Nov. 20, 2009)
Afghan War Closes in on Kabul (Oct. 28, 2009)
FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — February 26, 2009
One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that Rep. Michele Bachmann had acknowledged for the first time — at least implicitly — the uproar her controversial public comments have caused.
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