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Gunman shot dead after 12 hour siege in Afghanistan

By Sheetal Sukhija, Central Asia News
22 Jan 2018, 04:23 GMT+10

KABUL, Afghanistan - At least 19 people were killed and 12 others wounded after gunmen stormed Kabul’s prominent Intercontinental Hotel late on Saturday. 

The gunmen were reportedly sporting army uniforms and battled Afghan Special Forces through the night.

According to officials, 19 people were killed and 12 injured although they warned that the final toll of the dead and wounded may still be higher. 

A spokesman for the ministry of public health, Wahid Majroh said in a statement that 19 bodies had been brought into city hospitals, with six identified as foreigners. 

Interior ministry spokesman Najib Danesh said that all five attackers were also killed in the operation.

In a statement, local airline Kam Air said around 40 of its pilots and aircrew had been staying at the hotel and as many as ten had been killed. 

On Sunday morning, local media reports stated that the dead included Venezuelans and Ukrainians.

In a statement, Zamari Kamgar, the airline's deputy director, said it was still trying to locate staff.

Afghan officials also revealed that over 150 guests were able to flee as parts of the building caught fire.

Some of the guests are said to have tied sheets together and dropped from upper-floor windows, being rescued by Afghan forces later.

The Intercontinental Hotel is one of two main luxury hotels in Kabul.

It is used for events including conferences attended by government officials.

This is not the first time the hotel has come under attack and was previously targeted by Taliban fighters in 2011 who stormed the hotel and set off explosions and exchanging gunfire with authorities for hours.

Later, pressure from Afghan snipers and a NATO helicopter forced three of the remaining bombers to blow themselves up that killed 11 Afghan civilians who were workers at the hotel, along with two policemen. 

On Sunday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement that it was responsible for the attack.

The raid was the latest in a series of attacks that have underlined the city's vulnerability and the ability of militants to mount high-profile operations aimed at undermining confidence in the Western-backed government.

The interior ministry placed the blame on the Haqqani network, a group affiliated with the Taliban.

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