Suicide Bomb Attack Strikes Afghan Hotel
Afghan police were battling the assailants with machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades as tracer rounds went up over the blacked out building.
(CBS/AP) Updated at 4:53 p.m. ET
KABUL - At least one suicide bomber blew himself up late Tuesday night inside a Western-style hotel in Kabul, police said. Afghan police were battling the assailants with machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades as tracer rounds went up over the blacked out building.
According to Afghan police sources, roughly 10 people are believed to be dead in the rare, nighttime attack in the Afghan capital, CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark reports. Maj. Gen. Mohammad Zahir, the head of criminal investigations with the Kabul police, told CBS News that three police officers were injured in the attack along with a number of civilians.
Clark reports the hotel, the Inter-Continental, was scheduled to host a meeting of high-level government officials Wednesday about the handover of security operations from U.S. forces to the country's government in 2014.
An Interior Ministry official told CBS News in Kabul that the attack appears to be finished but that some assailants may be hiding in the hotel compound.
Reached by telephone, a person inside the hotel told CBS News that he can hear gunfire from the floors below him and has locked himself in his room.
The Interior Ministry told CBS News that as many as six suicide bombers may have been involved in the attack.
Associated Press reporters at the scene heard bursts of gunfire and saw shooting from the roof of the five-story hotel, which is frequented by Afghan political leaders and foreign visitors. Police ordered bystanders to lay on the ground for safety.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility in a telephone call to the AP. The U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan were holding talks earlier Tuesday about the prospect of political reconciliation with the Taliban -- a step increasingly seen in the U.S. as an uncomfortable necessity as the U.S. draws down its forces.
A guest who was inside said he heard gunfire echoing throughout the building. The hotel sits on a hill overlooking the city and streets leading up to it were blocked. The scene was dark as electricity at the hotel was out.
Azizullah, an Afghan police officer who uses only one name, told an Associated Press reporter at the scene that at least one bomber entered the hotel and detonated a vest of explosives. Another police officer, who would not disclose his name, said there were at least two suicide bombers.
Jawid, a guest at the hotel, said he jumped out a one-story window to flee the shooting.
"I was running with my family," he said. "There was shooting. The restaurant was full with guests."
The Inter-Continental — known widely as the "Inter-Con" opened in the late 1960s, was the nation's first international luxury hotel. It has at least 200 rooms and was once part of an international chain. But when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the hotel was left to fend for itself.
It was used by Western journalists during the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The Inter-Continental is not a magnet for westerners, CBS News reports. Most westerners stay at the Serena hotel in the center of the city.