Attack at the Inter-Continental Hotel, Kabul
22 Jan 2018
18 civilians have been killed and around 160 rescued after four men stormed the Inter-Continental Hotel in the Karte Parwab area of western Kabul. The attack began around 2100 hours local time on 20 January, as guests were eating dinner; many visitors were due to attend an IT conference the following day. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid stated the group took responsibility for the attack, carried out by a five-member group. Despite this admission, the government has only reported to have found four militants.
- Up to five armed men stormed the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul on 20 January 2018.
- 18 people have been confirmed dead, with 160 rescued by Afghan Armed Forces after a 12-hour siege.
- The Afghan Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack.
Terrorism: 18 civilians have been killed and around 160 rescued after four men stormed the Inter-Continental Hotel in the Karte Parwab area of western Kabul. The attack began around 2100 hours local time on 20 January, as guests were eating dinner; many visitors were due to attend an IT conference the following day. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid stated the group took responsibility for the attack, carried out by a five-member group. Despite this admission, the government has only reported to have found four militants.
The attackers, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles, took many guests hostage in the hotel kitchen, before proceeding to move throughout the hotel. Several visitors used bed sheets to climb down from balconies to escape the attackers and a fire on the sixth floor. It has also been reported that 42 employees of the Kam Air airline were staying at the hotel; 18 remain unaccounted for.
The hotel’s perimeter was cordoned, and Afghan Special Forces were dropped onto the hotel roof, from where they conducted an operation to clear the hotel and recover the hostages. Afghan officials have stated that after the 12-hour siege, four of the attackers were shot and killed by armed forces. While Afghan officials have reported that at least 18 people were killed and around 22 injured, this death toll is expected to rise. The Ministry of Interior, and the hotel itself, have stated that a further investigation will establish how the attackers breached the hotel’s extensive security.
solace global comment
The Inter-Continental is highly symbolic, as it was the first international-class hotel in country. It was inaugurated in 1969 as part of American chain of the same name, but ceased to be affiliated during the Soviet occupation, beginning ten years later. The hotel is incredibly popular with foreigners in Kabul, in part due to its significant security provision. This concentration of high-value foreigners is the key reason why the Taliban conducted the attack. Reports suggest that the attackers were specifically targeting foreign guests of the hotel. The siege on the 20 January comes days after the US embassy issued a warning regarding hotel safety in the city of Kabul.
This is not the first insurgent attack on the hotel. On 28 June 2011, the Inter-Continental Kabul Hotel came under attack from armed Taliban militants who eventually exploded their suicide vests. In the 2011 attack, 21 people, including all nine attackers were killed. The 2011 attack followed a similar pattern to the one in 2018; armed militants entered the building whilst guests were dining.
It has been reported that in the two weeks prior to the attack on the 20 January, the security of the hotel was handed over to a private company. An investigation has been launched to establish if this change played a role in the ability of the attackers to gain entry into the hotel. In 2011, the attack occurred whilst a briefing was taking place at the hotel on the transfer of security responsibility from NATO to Afghan forces.
This attack demonstrates the ongoing threat posed by Taliban insurgents, and the challenges local and coalition forces face. By most measures, the Taliban was very successful in reaching numerous battlefield objectives in 2017, despite the group not controlling any provincial capitals. The Taliban now controls or contests 45 per cent of Afghan districts according to some estimates, more than at any point since the American-led invasion. The Taliban remains in control of, or contests, many areas outside of the provincial capitals of Kunduz, Helmand, Uruzgan, and Farah. This enables the Taliban to regroup, resupply, recruit, and prepare fighters to attack urban centres including Kabul. The security problems in the capital city are made apparent by the fact that US forces are ferried from Kabul Airport to their base by helicopter, to avoid even limited road travel. In April 2017, more than 250 Afghan soldiers were killed during an assault on an Afghan army corps headquarters; the deadliest single attack since 2001. This provides further evidence of the strength possessed by the Taliban. Afghanistan also continues to experience a severe threat from an Islamic State (IS)-affiliate in Afghanistan. The terrorist group killed an average of 140 people every month throughout 2017. Islamic State like, the Taliban, are Sunni Muslims. In Afghanistan, they have indiscriminately targeted civilians and security forces alike (as well as engaging in low-intensity warfare against the Taliban).
Despite the ongoing attacks, heavy security measures are continually deployed across key sites in Afghanistan such as hotels and embassies. The United Nations Security Council reported that in the days before the attack, that further heightened security measures were required. Extensive security reviews and protocols are expected to be implemented in the immediate aftermath of this attack. Areas further afield from the centre of the city are expected to see more concrete blast walls and more thorough police check points.
The attack on the Inter-Continental Hotel is a further reminder that Afghanistan remains highly vulnerable to terrorist attacks and that terrorist enterprises remain operational throughout the country. Despite being considered a more secure location, that the attackers were able to gain access to the hotel and it took government forces 12 hours to end the siege, demonstrates the challenges of all visits to Afghanistan. Travel to Afghanistan should only be undertaken in business-critical circumstances.
If caught in a terror situation, travellers are advised to RUN â HIDE â TELL â FIGHT. RUN â If in a location where gunfire or explosions are heard, leave the area or building by any safe and available exit immediately. HIDE â If unable to run away, find suitable cover or barricade yourself in a room. Remember to silence your phone and turn vibrate off. TELL â Inform emergency services or alert someone who is able to do it for you. Once police arrive, comply with their instructions and do not make any sudden movements.Â FIGHT â As a last resort, if confronted with a gunman, it is recommended to fight back by using the element of surprise by shouting, screaming and running fast at the attacker. If sheltered with others, convince them to do the same and rush the attacker all at once. Ensure the person entering the shelter is the attacker and not law enforcement.
Solace Global would advise clients to employ a high level of personal security when visiting Afghanistan â an armed security detail and the use of armoured vehicles should be considered as the minimum-security standard for all travel throughout the country. For certain visitors, itineraries, or locations, this level of security may need to be heightened further. Given this attack on what was generally considered a secure hotel, travellers should also consider the use of a safehouse. Travellers should also employ a travel tracking app with an intelligence feed will permit employers to exercise additional duty of care, and allow travellers to be kept aware of the relevant changes in the security situation.
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