Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Multiple Americans killed in Kabul hotel attack, says US official


KABUL/WASHINGTON: Multiple American citizens were killed and injured in the Taliban’s 14-hour siege of an upscale Kabul hotel last weekend, the state department said on Tuesday.

No exact figures were immediately available for either fatalities or injuries. In total, 22 people were killed in the attack including 14 foreigners, Afghan officials said. Eleven of the 14 foreigners had been identified as working for an Afghan private airline, KamAir.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed gunmen belonging to the group were responsible for the attack. The Afghan interior ministry blamed the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, which killed 21 people at the same hotel in 2011.

“We offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who were killed and wish for the speedy recovery of those wounded,” the state department said. “Out of respect for the families of the deceased, we have no further comment.”

The American deaths were the latest reminder of the continuing toll paid by the US in Afghanistan, where local forces have struggled to fight the Taliban since the US and Nato formally ended their combat mission in 2014.

Donald Trump has pursued a plan that involves sending thousands more US troops to Afghanistan and envisions shifting away from a “time-based” approach to one that more explicitly links US assistance to concrete results from the Afghan government.

Trump’s United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, said after a recent visit to Afghanistan that Trump’s policy was working and peace talks between the government and the Taliban were closer than ever before.

The six Taliban militants who stormed the Intercontinental Hotel on Saturday in suicide vests were looking for foreigners and Afghan officials to kill. Afghan security forces have said the standoff ended on Sunday when they killed the last of the militants.

More than 150 people were rescued or escaped, including 41 foreigners. Some hid in bathtubs or under mattresses as the attackers roamed the hotel’s hallways.

It was unclear how seriously the injured Americans were wounded. In addition to the Americans killed in the attack, six Ukrainians, two Venezuelan pilots for KamAir, a citizen of Kazakhstan and a citizen of Germany were killed, officials said.

Word of the American deaths came as Afghan’s interior ministry said an investigation was under way to find out how the attackers got into the building so easily.

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