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As many as eight suicide bombers and gunmen attacked a landmark hotel overlooking the Afghan capital late Tuesday.
KABUL — Kamel Khan, 32, a businessman, was chatting with two friends on the poolside terrace of the hilltop Intercontinental Hotel Tuesday night when he heard a burst of gunfire and looked up. A man carrying a machine gun, with an ammunition belt across his chest and a knapsack on his back, was standing a few feet away.
“He stared at all of the guests like he wanted to kill us, and he had enough bullets to do it, but for some reason he just turned and kept going,” Khan said. After a moment of shock, Khan and dozens of other guests made a dash for the garden wall and fled downhill, while heavy shooting erupted behind them.
At about the same time, Maulvi Mohammed Orsaji, head of the Takhar Provincial Council, was dining with a judge in the hotel’s formal dining room when several other gunmen entered and started shooting. Both officials were visiting Kabul for a governor’s conference that was scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
“I got down and hid behind a pillar, and I stayed there for the next five hours,” the shaken, elderly cleric recounted Wednesday morning. “There was shooting and explosions. By the time it was over, both my guard and my friend the judge were dead.”
“I was a fighter in the [anti-Soviet] jihad when I was young,” Orsaji continued. “But I never saw such a wild kind of attack in my life.”
The siege of the Intercontinental by a squad of Taliban suicide bombers and heavily armed gunmen was one of the most sophisticated and audacious attacks on the capital in years. It took the lives of at least nine civilians, including hotel staff and visitors, and wounded a dozen more, ending only when surviving attackers were shot dead by NATO helicopter gunships during a pre-dawn last stand on the hotel roof.
Officials from various police and government agencies gave contradictory information Wednesday about the number of dead and wounded, as well as their nationalities.
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