Afghan officials report that at least 18 civilians were killed in a siege that started late Saturday night at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. The standoff lasted 11 hours and ended with the deaths of six Taliban attackers dressed in suits and wielding AK-47 assault rifles, according to witnesses and the country’s interior ministry.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack as of Sunday. The terror group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the original plan was to ambush the hotel Thursday night but managed to postpone the attack due to a wedding occurring in the hotel. They wanted to avoid civilian casualties, ABC reports.
The Taliban also said the attack was carried out by five assailants. The attackers were affiliated with the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, according to the Interior Ministry.
Spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, Najib Danish told ABC News on Sunday that in addition to the 18 who died, 10 were injured, consisting of six police officers and four civilians.
Of the 18 killed, 14 were foreign nationals and four were Afghans, according to Danish. Four gunmen were also killed by Afghan security forces responding to the attack, he said.
The ministry said 153 people — including 41 foreigners — were rescued from the hotel.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released an official statement on Sunday, stating that the United Stands stands with the people of Afghanistan.
“We remain firmly committed to supporting Afghan efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity for their country. Violence like what we witnessed yesterday has no place in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world,” Tillerson said.
According to CNN, The U.S. State Department warned the Afghan capital of a possible attack by terrorists targeting Kabul hotels just last week.
The Afghan Interior Ministry blamed the Haqqani network for the attack, who is known for high-profile attacks on Western targets in Afghanistan. The network manages to maintain close ties to al Qaeda and the Taliban, and hopes to reestablish Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
In 2001, then-U.S. Ambassador, Ryan Crocker, accused the network of taking responsibility for a daylong attack against the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.