A security official said at least five people were found dead inside, while authorities continued to search for the remaining attackers. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal information about the attack.
While the fighting was going on, Mr. Rauf and hundreds of other guests spent the night hiding in the rooms, wondering if they would live or die. . They were still there at dawn on Sunday, while sporadic shooting continued, and most were still alive.
"Why can not the police rescue us?" Rauf said, after five hours in his hotel room on the second floor. He said he was lying there listening to shots and taking cell phone calls, with his phone in silence.
In another room on the second floor of the six-story, 200-room hotel, Haji Saheb Nazar, 45, also employed by Afghan Telecoms, huddled in the toilet cubicle. He was so convinced that he would not survive the night he called home to say goodbye. "I told my family that maybe they would kill me, I did not know"
On the street, the head of the men, the Minister of Telecommunications Shahzad Aryobee, was frustrated because the police did not allow him to approach the building, which was partially on fire, as explosions occasionally exploded. Mr. Aryobee tried to contact by telephone the 105 staff members who, according to him, were inside to reassure them. "I'm here, I will not leave you, help comes," he said
. The minister could do little, but he watched helplessly as the night progressed, with temperatures well below freezing, until the morning came. and the authorities claimed that they had regained control of the hotel.
It was the latest in a series of serious attacks on the Afghan capital that have alarmed residents and undermined confidence in the government's ability to cope with the worsening security situation.
There were fears of a much higher death toll, in part because similar attacks have proven to be more lethal. But in the morning, the security official said that only five bodies had been found, and that half of the building was not yet clear.
However, officials indicated that they still did not have full control of the hotel.
"Our special forces are entering the building," said General Afzal Aman, commander of the Kabul Garrison, an elite unit of police and soldiers who is responsible for security in the capital, who was reached by cell phone in the scene. "The attackers are on the side of the building, there are guests trapped in their rooms, we do not know who the attackers are."
Hotels in Kabul have long been a favorite target of several insurgents, and Saturday's attack was the second time that armed men broke into the hotel; In a 2011 attack, they went room by room, executing anyone they found.
The Intercontinental is one of the most watched places in the capital and benefits from sitting on a fortified hill. It is also a symbol of the Afghan state. Built in the 1970s as part of the Intercontinental Hotels chain, it was taken over by the government after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. During the ensuing civil war it was heavily damaged by the bombing of rival mujahideen factions, and then rebuilt after the Taliban were defeated.
Now, most of its 200 rooms are occupied by government officials and official guests; Foreigners rarely stay there for security reasons.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. In recent months, the Afghan faction of the Islamic State has claimed that it carried out several high profile attacks in the capital and others have been attributed to the Haqqani network, a Taliban faction based in Pakistan.
President Trump pledged to cut aid to Pakistan because he has continued to protect the insurgents, but the Taliban have also proved adept at encouraging more attacks in Afghanistan when it has served their interests.
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