A group of gunmen stormed the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, and early reports say they may have foreign hostages and are shooting guests.
The reports were preliminary as they broke on January 20, 2018, but Fox News reported hours later that at least five civilians had died. Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan, and the five-star Intercontinental hotel is “a favourite with foreign reporters, diplomats and those in the city for business,” reported UK Mirror. The same luxury hotel previously fell under attack by terrorists in 2011. It was not yet clear how many casualties have resulted from the 2018 attack. However, UK Mirror reported that 15 people may be deceased as a result of the attack.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Attackers Appeared to Be Suicide Bombers, Reports Said
The group of gunmen consisted of about three to four attackers, according to Reuters. The “group of three or four gunmen attacked the Intercontinental Hotel in the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday and were exchanging fire with security forces,” Reuters reported, quoting an interior ministry spokesman.
Reuters reported that, while the details were still unfolding, “the attackers appeared to have included suicide bombers.” According to Al-Jazeera, the situation inside the luxury hotel was “dire” and gunmen were using automatic weapons. “The Inter-Continental, situated on a hill overlooking Kabul, is usually heavily guarded because of its popularity with government officials and foreigners living the Afghan capital,” Al-Jazeera reported.
According to Fox News, “The bodies of at least four attackers were recovered, officials said, with Afghan Special Forces going room by room Sunday to make sure all the gunmen have been accounted for.”
2. There Were Reports of Foreign Hostages
CNN reported that special forces had arrived to counter the attackers. “Special forces have arrived at the scene and are battling the attackers,” according to the cable news network.
According to Al-Jazeera, “There were reports that a number of people were being held hostage, while an eye witness said that part of the building was on fire.”
The UK Mirror reported that the gunmen stormed the hotel and may have taken hostages, although those accounts had not yet been confirmed by authorities.
3. Reports Said the Gunmen Were Shooting Guests
A horrific scenario was playing out inside the hotel, according to BBC, which reported that gunmen were shooting at hotel guests. “An official at the Afghan spy agency told AFP that the gunmen were ‘shooting at guests,'” The British news network reported.
A guest, who was hiding inside the hotel, told AFP that he heard gunfire. “I don’t know if the attackers are inside the hotel but I can hear gunfire from somewhere near the first floor,” he told the French press service.
According to the Mirror, the attackers were also “said to be firing from top of hotel.”
“As day broke on Sunday, thick clouds of black smoke could be seen pouring from the building. Several armored U.S. military vehicles with heavy machine guns could be seen close to the hotel along with Afghan police units,” Reuters reported.
4. The Same Hotel Was Attacked in the Past
According to a 2011 article by the BBC, the same hotel was also attacked by terrorists that year. “At least seven people are reported to have been killed after a top hotel in the Afghan capital, Kabul, came under attack by gunmen and suicide bombers,” BBC reported in 2011.
Although photos circulated on Twitter showing the hotel on fire, those appear to be from the 2011 attack.
In the earlier attack, reported BBC, “An official said three bombers had blown themselves up at the Intercontinental Hotel and another had been shot dead.” In a dramatic scene, two attackers were killed on the roof of the hotel, reported BBC.
5. The U.S. State Department Recently Released a Warning That Hotels Could Be Targeted
The U.S. State Department had warned travelers that Kabul hotels could come under attack just two days before. “Security Alert for #Kabul, #Afghanistan: reports that extremist groups may be planning an attack against hotels in Kabul, such as the Hotel Baron near Hamid Karzai Int’l Airport,” reported the State Department on January 18.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul also reported at that time: “These groups may also be targeting public gatherings/demonstrations, government facilities, transportation, markets, and places where foreigners are known to congregate.”
According to AFP, “The fourth floor of the hotel is on fire…Occupants inside the hotel are hiding on the second floor, a security source said.”