KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan officials have arrested four men following an attack on Kabul’s main luxury hotel, including one suspected of wearing a police uniform during the multi-pronged assault that killed eight, officials said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a militant connected to an insurgent leader in Pakistan was accused of masterminding the attack, which left at least one American among the dead and could signal a new era of brazen extremist assaults in Afghanistan.
Police said they also found a video made by two of the attackers in a home in Kabul, where they arrested two men. A fourth man “” believed to have driven the attackers to the Serena Hotel “” was arrested in eastern Afghanistan while trying to flee to Pakistan.
Amrullah Saleh, the head of Afghanistan’s intelligence service, said three militants stormed the Serena Hotel on Monday evening. A guard shot and killed one attacker at the gate to the hotel’s parking lot, which triggered his suicide vest.
A second attacker blew himself up near the entrance to the hotel’s lobby, and the third attacker made it inside the hotel and shot his way through the lobby and toward the gym, Saleh said. A man alleged suspected of being the third attacker was arrested Monday.
The three militants stormed the popular luxury hotel just after 6 p.m., hunting down Westerners who had cowered in a gym. More than 30 U.S. soldiers in a half-dozen Humvees rushed to the hotel, and security personnel from the nearby U.S. Embassy ran to the scene.
Blood covered the lobby floor as gunfire rang out, witnesses said.
Saleh said the attack was masterminded by Mullah Abdullah, a close ally of Siraj Haqqani, a well-known militant leader thought to be based in Pakistan’s tribal area in Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan. The U.S. military has a $200,000 bounty out on Haqqani.
Police arrested a man named Humayun, allegedly a key link to Abdullah, in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday as he was trying to flee to Pakistan, Saleh said, accusing him of supplying the assailants with weapons, explosives and suicide vests and driving them to the hotel.
Saleh showed a picture taken from the hotel’s security cameras showing a gunman in a police uniform inside the hotel’s lobby, apparently the third attacker. He was apprehended 15 to 20 minutes after the attack began, he said.
“The third person, after killing a number of the guests, maybe he changed his mind for some reason, he didn’t detonate himself,” Saleh said. “He changed his clothes and later when security forces searched the premises, he was arrested.”