Nine people were killed Thursday in an attack by the Taliban on a luxury hotel in Kabul that is used by United Nations staff and foreign visitors, news reports said, citing police and government officials.
Four insurgents reportedly stormed into the Serena Hotel and opening fire on people sitting inside the hotel's restaurant. All four Taliban members were shot dead by Afghan Special Forces after battling with them for more than an hour. The victims included four women, three men and two children and belonged to Canada, India, New Zealand and Pakistan, Reuters reported, citing the interior ministry. About 18 U.N. officials were in the hotel when the attack commenced. One of the dead included a journalist and his wife and two children, news reports said Friday.
"I never heard an explosion or anything like that. Only firearms and possible rocket-propelled grenades," one senior U.N. official said in a text message from his room where he hid with the lights turned off, according to Reuters.
The police is now investigating safety protocols at the Serena Hotel, which has been the site of previous attacks by the Taliban insurgency, and are trying to ascertain how the militants got through the hotel's heavy security installations. According to Mohammad Ayub Salangi, Afghanistan's deputy interior minister, the attackers hid pistols in their socks and were armed with grenades, Bloomberg reported.
The Taliban have stepped up violence in Afghanistan ahead of the presidential elections slated for April 5. On Thursday, the group attacked a police station, killing at least 11 people in the southern city of Jalalabad and, a day prior to that, the militant group attacked a marketplace in northern Faryab region, killing 15 people.
“Every Taliban attack will have a severe impact on the elections,” said Ahmad Saeedi, a former Afghan diplomat to Pakistan, according to Bloomberg, adding: "The attack will reduce the participation of people in voting.”