At least nine civilians — including an Agence France-Presse (AFP) reporter — children and foreigners were killed in a Taliban attack on a luxury hotel in Kabul, officials said yesterday, just weeks before a presidential election.
Four teenage gunmen with pistols hidden in their socks managed to penetrate several layers of security at the Serena hotel, a prestigious venue favored by foreign visitors to the capital, on Thursday night.
Sardar Ahmad, a 40-year-old journalist in AFP’s Kabul bureau, was among those killed, along with his wife and two of their three children.
An AFP photographer identified the four bodies at a city hospital and said the family’s youngest son was undergoing emergency treatment after being badly wounded in the attack.
Ahmad joined AFP in 2003 and became the agency’s senior reporter in Kabul. He covered all aspects of life, war and politics in Afghanistan for the international news agency.
“This is an immensely painful and enormous loss for Agence France-Presse,” AFP chairman Emmanuel Hoog said.
The Serena attack was claimed by the Taliban, who have vowed a campaign of violence to disrupt the April 5 poll that will decide a successor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Previous elections have been badly marred by violence as the militants displayed their opposition to the US-backed polls.
“We believe that such attacks have a direct link to the upcoming elections, and the enemies try to stage such attacks to frustrate the people of Afghanistan about their future,” interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told a news conference.
The attackers reached the hotel’s restaurant at about 8:30pm and began firing indiscriminately at diners, Sediqqi said.
Nine people were killed in the assault: five Afghans and four foreigners, he said. The dead included four women and two children.
One of the civilians killed in the attack was a former Paraguayan diplomat who was in Afghanistan as an election observer, Paraguayan Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga said.
Sediqqi said the foreign nationals were from Canada, New Zealand, Pakistan and India, but made no mention of the Paraguayan.
The attack ended around 11:30 pm when Afghan security forces killed the last of the attackers, the spokesman said.