At least nine civilians including children, a journalist and foreigners were killed in a Taliban attack on a luxury hotel in Kabul, officials said yesterday, just weeks before a presidential election.
Four teenage gunmen with pistols hidden in their socks managed to penetrate several layers of security at the Serena hotel, a prestigious venue favoured by foreign visitors to the capital, on Thursday night.
Sardar Ahmad, 40, a staff reporter at the Agence France-Presse news agency, was shot dead along with his wife and two of his three children on Thursday evening when four teenage gunmen with pistols hidden in their socks managed to penetrate several layers of security at the Serena hotel, a prestigious venue favoured by foreign visitors to the capital.
One of the civilians killed in the attack was a former Paraguayan diplomat who was in Afghanistan as an election observer, Paraguay’s Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga said.
The attackers reached the hotel’s restaurant around 8.30pm and began firing indiscriminately at diners, interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told a news conference.
Nine people were killed in the assault, five Afghans and four foreigners, he said, and the dead included four women and two children.
RIP Sardar, his wife, his kids. He was one of the coolest people you could ever hope to meet pic.twitter.com/IV7Q0Lfw4R 
— Danny Kemp (@dannyctkemp) March 21, 2014 
The foreign nationals were from Canada, New Zealand, Pakistan and India, he said but made no mention of the Paraguayan.
The attack ended around 11.30pm when Afghan security forces killed the last of the attackers, Sediqqi said, adding that most of the hotel guests had been able to take shelter in special safe rooms.
The attack occurred on the eve of Nawroz, the Persian New Year which is a major holiday in Afghanistan, and the hotel was hosting special celebrations.
"We believe that such attacks have a direct link to the upcoming elections, and the enemies try to stage such attacks to frustrate the people of Afghanistan about their future,” Sediqqi said.
Loizaga named the Paraguayan election observer as Luis Maria Duarte, a lawyer who also worked for the United Nations.
I heard some gunshots, and we all were taken by guards to the safe rooms,” a front-desk clerk said on condition of anonymity.
Jane Ferguson, an Al Jazeera television journalist staying at the hotel, said on Twitter she had “just got out of Serena hotel safe. Horrible few hour with furniture against my door.”
The attack comes a week after a gunman shot dead a Hong Kong-based journalist in central Kabul. Taliban militants denied responsibility for the unexplained shooting of Nils Horner, 51, which occurred in an upmarket district of the Afghan capital.
The journalist, who held joint Swedish and British nationality, worked for Swedish national radio.