KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan security forces waged a fierce battle with Taliban insurgents early Wednesday inside the luxury Kabul Intercontinental hotel, one of two hotels in the capital that cater to large groups of international visitors.
At one point, helicopters from the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force fired rockets at the hotel’s roof, where at least two insurgents had taken up positions. ISAF said the insurgents had been killed, and the Afghan Interior Ministry also said all the Taliban attackers had been killed.
But it was unclear that the siege had ended. Afghan forces were reported to be moving floor by floor through the 20-story hotel, and explosions could still be heard by onlookers outside the hotel. The hotel itself was burning fiercely.
It was unknown whether any of the hotel’s guests had been killed or wounded in the mayhem and how many Americans might have been staying at the hotel. Mohammed Zahir, the director of criminal investigations for the Kabul police department, said at least six officers had been wounded.
The Associated Press reported seven people had been killed and eight wounded.
The rare nighttime assault was likely to increase anxiety in the Afghan capital over the ability of the Afghan police and army to take control of security responsibilities, a transition that is scheduled to occur next month.
The Taliban hadn’t launched an attack on a major hotel in the capital in more than a year, but it has executed a string of brazen assaults in the capital that have shaken Afghan confidence in the security forces. In May, a suicide bomber dressed in a uniform killed at least six at the country’s main military hospital. A month earlier, a suicide attacker killed three people inside the Defense Ministry.
The Taliban assailants at the Intercontinental also were wearing military uniforms when they stormed into the hotel through a read door at about 10 p.m., Zahir said. At that hour, the hotel was almost certainly filled with milling guests and diners.
Hours into the siege, Zahir acknowledged that Afghan forces were having difficulty re-establishing control.
“The insurgents are resisting,” he said. “The situation is not clear.”