Taliban attack on restaurant and hotel outside Kabul leaves 24 dead


AT LEAST two dozen people have been killed during a Taliban attack on Qargha Lake, a resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Seven insurgents, who were among the dead, stormed a hotel and restaurant at the lakeside with rocket-propelled grenades, AK47s and machine guns on Thursday night.

The Taliban fighters took those inside hostage and began a more than 11-hour battle with Afghan security forces. Afghan police said the presence of hostages made it difficult for them to bring the situation at the Spugmay restaurant to a quick end.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the hotel and restaurant were frequented by foreigners and Afghan government officials. Taliban officials also said the restaurant served alcohol.

“The mujahideen entered a small hotel and attacked a neighbouring hotel that was used by foreigners for their illicit fun and having parties. It was a special hotel for Afghan government officials and foreigners,” says Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman.

Located about 30 minutes outside Kabul city centre, Qargha Lake is a popular weekend retreat for Afghans. There are a number of hotels and a golf course. Though foreigners often visit Qargha, it is predominately an Afghan attraction, particularly the Spugmay restaurant. While Mr Mujahid claimed the Taliban fighters only killed Afghan government workers and foreigners, the group has a history of exaggerating the effectiveness of its operations and claiming to have killed foreign soldiers when only Afghan civilians have been left dead.

Kabul’s police chief, Gen Ayoub Salangi, told reporters that 250-300 hostages were freed in the initial hours of the fighting and another 40 in the morning. Children were among the hostages.

Several people jumped into the lake but had to cling to a stone wall overnight until rescuers reached them yesterday morning. Though Nato provided helicopter support, Afghan security forces led the operation, which ended at about 11am.

The commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, Gen John Allen, said he suspected the Taliban-linked Haqqani group was behind the assault.– (Guardian service)