Attack on Kabul luxury hotel kills 6
Posted by Marisol on January 14, 2008 8:02 PM
KABUL, Afghanistan - Militants stormed Kabul's most popular luxury hotel Monday, killing at least six people as they hunted down Westerners who cowered in a gym — a coordinated assault that could signal a new era of brazen Taliban attacks.
What? Not brazen  Christian monk attacks?
The gunmen threw grenades and fired AK-47s, and one even blew himself up despite heavy security at the Serena Hotel. One American and a Norwegian journalist were among the dead, officials said.
More than 30 U.S. soldiers in a half-dozen Humvees rushed to the hotel as part of a quick reaction force, and security personnel from the nearby U.S. Embassy ran through the building looking for U.S. citizens.
"There was blood on the floor all the way to the kitchen. There was a lot of blood in the lobby," said Suzanne Griffin of Seattle, who had been in the hotel gym at the time of the attack.
"There were empty shell casings outside," added Griffin, 62, who was working for Save the Children.
She said she had to step over the lifeless body of a woman when evacuated from the locker room.
"Thank God I didn't get into the shower because then we heard gunfire, a lot of it. It was very close, close enough that plaster came off the ceiling," Griffin, her voice shaking, told The Associated Press shortly after the attack. "We all just sat on the floor and got as far as we could from any glass. ... We turned our phones on silent."
It was the deadliest direct attack on a hotel in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
The assailants appeared to concentrate their assault on the Serena's gym and spa, where foreigners relax and work out at night, suggesting the militants had cased the hotel in advance.
The Taliban has targeted aid workers and civilian contractors with kidnappings and killings, but this was the most daring and sophisticated attack yet and was aimed at a prominent symbol of foreign presence in the country, apparently designed to point out the vulnerability of the Western presence.
Taliban attacks have typically targeted Western and Afghan government or security personnel, not Western civilians.
The multipronged assault began around 6 p.m., when the Norwegian Embassy was hosting a meeting at the Serena for visiting Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described Stoere as the target of the attack.
Witnesses said they first heard gunfire, then several explosions — likely from hand grenades — and also one large blast — the suicide bomb.
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