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Hotel in Kabul: journalist waits death on the balcony



Afghan authorities say the attackers killed at least 18 people, including 12 foreigners, during the 12-hour clash with security forces, although unconfirmed media reports greatly increased the number of victims. At least four assailants were also killed.

The attackers were affiliated with the Haqqani network, based in Pakistan, according to the Ministry of the Interior. The Taliban issued a statement claiming responsibility.

Abdulhaq Omeri, a journalist from Afghanistan's TOLO news channel, told CNN that seven people died in front of him. He survived by hiding on a balcony while the attackers were hunting the victims.

Omeri had been dining with friends, including the Afghan general consul in the Pakistani city of Karachi, in a suite on the fourth floor when they were interrupted by loud knocking on the door at 8:45 p.m. Saturday (11:15 a.m. ET).

Eleven hotel waiters were quick to say that the hotel was under terrorist attack.

Terrified, Omeri said they barricaded the door of the room with anything they could find. An hour later the attackers arrived at his apartment, shooting at the doors to gain access.

"As soon as they broke the doors of the rooms with bullets, they threw a kind of explosive inside the room that after exploding burned almost all around," he told CNN.

"We thought it was the last moment of our lives." Two of the waiters and the nephew of the Afghan general consul jumped off the balcony to survive, but when they jumped from the fourth floor and the floor surface was concrete, they did not make it alive on the ground

"We lost the consul-general in the room as a result of the explosion."

Omeri said that the survivors of his suite escaped from the balcony to the neighboring room whose residents had already been killed and burned by the terrorists.

"Then, from there we moved to the next suite where we also found corpses. We all sit quietly on the balcony waiting for our death.

"We were sitting there all night, during that time, I heard women and children screaming, men begging the attackers to forgive their lives," he said.

"The worst was when a man was screaming for help right next to us, the attackers heard him and went into the room, I heard one of the attackers telling the other to shoot him, then he was shot, and never again We hear the man shout. "

Security forces arrive

  Security forces near the Intercontinental Hotel after the attack.

Afghan security forces and NATO troops arrived at the building at 4 am, Omeri said. The Afghan media described an increase in shots when they entered.

About two hours later, the soldiers reached the fourth floor where Omeri was shaking outside on the balcony.

Afghanistan's Interior Ministry said 153 people, including 41 foreigners, were finally rescued from the hotel.

Omeri said that one of the attackers had tried to expel the survivors claiming to be the Afghan police and that when they arrived NATO special forces feared that they might be attackers in disguise.

"According to what I saw there, the death toll must be very high, seven people died in front of my eyes," he said.

"The terrorists spent all night killing special people on the third floor where they spent much of their time, we constantly heard the sound of bullets and explosions in almost every room.When the security forces arrived late, the attackers had time enough to go door-to-door and kill people. "

How the attack started

Omeri said that one of the hotel waiters hiding with him on the balcony described how the attack began . The waiter said that six attackers had been involved, two of whom had taken a room in the hotel's second story.

"He told me that earlier in the day a large box was brought to the hotel building through the kitchen in the second. The waiter said he looked suspicious, but one of his seniors told him it was not his business to ask about that box. "

The waiter said the attack was launched from three places simultaneously, with two men opening fire at the restaurant where they had been dining, two men shooting at security guards outside and the last couple starting to kill guests at the second floor, said Omeri.

Warning

The Afghan Ministry of the Interior blamed the Haqqani network for the attack. The group is based in the Pakistani tribal area of ​​Waziristan and is known for its high profile attacks against Western targets in Afghanistan. The network maintains close ties with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and seeks to restore the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

The United States Department of State had warned last week of a possible attack by extremist groups against the hotels in Kabul.

United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement on Sunday condemning the attack.

  The flames light up the sky after the Kabul Intercontinental Hotel was attacked in 2011.

"The United States supports the government and the people of Afghanistan," he said. "We remain firmly committed to supporting Afghan efforts to achieve peace, security and prosperity in their country, violence like the one we witnessed yesterday has no place in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world."

a statement. "We reiterate our strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and in our opinion, cooperation among states is important to effectively combat and eliminate the scourge of terrorism," he said.

In June 2011, seven Taliban fighters attacked the same hotel for several hours. In the end, the seven, along with 11 other people, died.

The InterContinental Hotels Group developed the hotel, which opened in 1969. But the hotel has not had any association with the group since the Soviet invasion in 1979, although it continues to use the name without connection to the international company.

Ehsan Popalzai from CNN reported from Kabul and Susannah Cullinane wrote from New Zealand. Daniel Nikbakht, Nadeem Muaddi, Steve Almasy, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Sandi Sidhu of CNN contributed to this report.


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