Toll in Kabul hotel attack rises to six


Kabul : A suicide attack in a luxury hotel in the Afghan capital left at least six people dead and another six injured, an Afghan interior ministry official has said.

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The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack Monday, which took place during a visit by Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store.

Store was unharmed, officials said. Carsten Thomassen, 38, a Norwegian reporter with Oslo daily Dagbladet, died late Monday of his injuries, the newspaper’s website reported.

In Oslo, the foreign ministry said one of its employees was injured in what was described as a suicide attack. The injured Norwegians were later taken to a field hospital at Kabul international airport, where Thomassen died.

One US national was killed in the attack, a US State Department official said.

Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary said earlier most of the casualties were Afghans.

An initial suicide attack was followed by a second explosion, the source of which was still under investigation. After the second explosion, shots were fired, he said.

A police source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told DPA that at least two militants tried to enter the fortified Serena Hotel in Kabul Monday evening.

The militants threw hand grenades at the guards and killed two of them, while a third attacker jumped inside the hotel compound and detonated himself, the official said. The guards also opened fire at the attackers.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg condemned the attack, but said Norway would remain in Afghanistan as part of international efforts to contribute to “peace and stability”.

Store, who had arrived with a 10-member delegation earlier Monday, told Norwegian media that his security staff ordered him to “throw myself down on the floor”.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Kristin Melsom said after the attack Store was taken to the basement of the hotel.

Taliban spokesman Zabeeullah Mujahid said four of the militant group’s fighters attacked the hotel and opened fire on “foreign guests and local police guards, killing several of them”.

“As three of our hero mujahideen opened fire on the guests, the fourth one detonated the explosives hidden around his body, causing a huge explosion,” Mujahid told DPA by phone from an undisclosed location.

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he could not confirm the Taliban was responsible for the attack.

“There are indications that it was a coordinated attack, intended to strike at innocent people who just happened to be in this hotel,” he said.

The area around the only city’s five-star hotel was cordoned off by Afghan security forces and reporters were not allowed to get near the site.

Taliban militants, whose government was toppled in a US-led invasion in late 2001, have recently heavily relied on the use of suicide and roadside attacks. The militants carried out more than 140 attacks last year.