The Associated Press is reporting that a six-hour siege of the Park Palace Guest House hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan has ended, after gunmen stormed the foreigner-friendly locale on a night in which a popular concert had been scheduled. One American citizen is believed dead, the AP reports.
The siege began at around 8 PM local time Wednesday, CNN reports, and consisted of what the news network described as “dozens of gunmen” forcibly entering the building. More than 30 people were believed to have been trapped inside, and multiple injuries are believed to have occurred in the final police push to rid the building of the terrorist assailants.
It was believed that “up to 40 foreigners” were in the building when the gunmen first attacked it, AP reports.
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By the sixth hour of the attack, Agence-France Presse reported the number of gunmen at “up to five,” two killed by police and at least one still roaming the building.
AP reported on Twitter that the siege has now officially concluded.
AFP adds an eyewitness testimony from the scene. An employee of the hotel, which is popular with foreigners and as such as vulnerable target for terrorists, told the outlet that gunfire interrupted “a party with live Afghan music” happening in the upstairs area of the hotel, “with several VIPs attending.” “There was a concert planned to take place inside the Park Place tonight, with foreigners, mainly Indian and Turkish guests, invited,” adds an intelligence official.
The hotel is located “close to a UN office and a diplomatic compound,” Al Jazeera reports. Al Jazeera’s reporter on the ground described the scene as “eerily quiet” before the final law enforcement action to rid the building of the attackers.
The American citizen killed has not been identified, but the United States embassy in Kabul has released a statement:
We can confirm reports that a US citizen was killed in the attack on a guesthouse in Kabul. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims at this time. Out of respect for the families of those killed, we have no further information at this time.
In addition to the one American citizen, the New York Times is reporting that two Indian nationals were killed in the attack. It adds, citing an Indian official, that “many of the guests inside were Indian auditors and staff members for nongovernmental organizations.” The Indian connection may be key to identifying the attackers: a report in Khaama Press, the largest online newspaper in Afghanistan, claims the gunmen attacked the building believing that the Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan would be attending the concert. Khaama cites Afghan special envoy for good governance Ahmad Zia Massoud, who spoke to reporters outside the hotel once the siege had ended, and claimed that intelligence indicated the Indian ambassador was the target, and that it “is likely a political attack.”
Multiple outlets highlight the fact that no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but the change of season usually rings in the Taliban’s spring offensive. Reuters notes that violence had occurred earlier Wednesday in Helmand province, when a group of gunmen interrupted a meeting of Muslim clerics in what was clearly a political attack.
This will be the first year that Afghan law enforcement will have no help from supporting American military in fighting the Taliban.