Kabul (TeleSUR– Gunmen have raided Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel, keeping the facility under siege for nearly 12 hours and killing at least 18 people, including four Afghans and 14 foreigners, Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry has reported.

The stand-off between gunmen and police finally came to an end on Sunday, after Afghan forces scanned each floor of the six-story luxury hotel and killed four gunmen in the process, ministry spokesman Najib Danish said, according to CNN.

The Intercontinental Hotel, Kabul, Afghanistan
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Nearly 153 people, including 41 foreigners, were rescued from the hotel in the operation. The smoke billowing from the hotel building’s top floors could be seen from afar.

According to AFP, “there was no immediate claim of responsibility,” but the Interior Ministry has placed the blame on Haqqani network, largely claimed to be linked to the Taliban.

The Guardian has reported that the Taliban claimed responsibility for the actions of five gunmen involved in the attack. An official with Afghanistan’s spy agency said the gunmen stormed the hotel and started to open fire on guests and visitors, taking several people hostage.

Video footage released by Afghanistan’s Tolo News showed people trapped on the roof of the hotel, tying bedsheets to reach balconies to escape the overnight siege, with one person attempting to escape and losing his grip, AFP reported.

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Ahsan Ali, a guest at the hotel, was dining when the attack began. “People ran to their rooms and locked themselves in … it was a dreadful scene,” he told local media.

People who were attending a telecommunications conference organized by the ministry were also present in the hotel at the time of the attack.

“Everything became chaotic in a moment,” Aziz Tayeb, a regional director for Afghan Telecom, told The Guardian.

“I hid behind a pillar and I saw people who were enjoying themselves a second ago screaming and fleeing like crazy, and some of them falling down, hit by bullets.”

Tayeb added that a few of his colleagues were able to escape to the outdoor swimming pool area, where they hid and heard the firing from a few meters away.

“I could repeatedly hear blasts one after another, hand grenades, they used many grenades,” he said.

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“We contacted security officials who arrived an hour later and as we were being escorted out, I saw five or six bodies outside the hotel. The second, third and fifth floors were on fire – the fifth floor was engulfed in flames.”

Another guest at the hotel under siege told AFP, “I don’t know if the attackers are inside the hotel, but I can hear gunfire from somewhere near the first floor,” the man, who did not want to be named, said.

“We are hiding in our rooms. I beg the security forces to rescue us as soon as possible before they reach and kill us.

This post was originally written for and published by TeleSUR English.