More than 40 people, including 14 foreigners, have been confirmed dead, following a hotel siege which began on Saturday night in Kabul.
An official for the Afghan government told Fox News bodies are still being discovered, and the final death toll may not be known for a while.
Eye witnesses told Reuters that five men dressed in army uniforms had entered the Intercontinental Hotel late on Saturday, shouting in Pashto: “Don’t leave any of them alive, good or bad. Shoot and kill them all.” They then opened fire on guests.
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Another survivor said the attackers had deliberately targeted foreigners during the 13-hour siege. It was ended by Afghan and western special forces, who raided the hotel and killed all five insurgents. Around 160 people were rescued by Afghan troops who fought throughout the night to regain control of the building.
Kabul police have confirmed that nine Ukrainians, one German, one Greek and one Kazakh citizen are among the dead. At least two are yet to be identified.
The Taliban, which targeted the hotel in 2011, has claimed responsibility for the attack. In a statement quoted by AFP, the group said it had “killed tens of foreign invaders and their puppets”.
Promising an investigation into how the attackers breached security, the interior minister said the decision to transfer security to a private company two weeks ago had been a mistake, after reports emerged that guards had fled without a fight.
The Intercontinental, one of two luxury hotels in the city, is frequented by government officials and foreigners, “and was thought to be well protected”, says The Guardian.
The raid is the latest in a series of attacks in and around Kabul “that have underlined the city’s vulnerability and the ability of militants to mount high-profile operations aimed at undermining confidence in the Western-backed government”, says Reuters.
At least 150 people were killed last May when a road-side bomb was detonated outside the German embassy in the Afghan capital.
President Ashraf Ghani said militant groups were being helped by neighbouring countries, adding: “As long as the terrorist groups have secure protection and safe haven, the region will not find security and stability.”
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