Taliban militants killed at least 20 people in an all-night battle with Afghan security forces at a popular resort near Kabul.
Qargha Lake, Afghanistan
Taliban militants attacked a popular resort near Kabul late Thursday night and battled with Afghan security forces well into Friday morning, underscoring the group's continued ability to mount serious challenges to security even in the capital.
Up to seven insurgents stormed a restaurant and hotel at 11:30 Thursday night and took the guests hostage, including children. Afghan police officials say that between 250 and 300 hostages were freed within the first hours of the clashes, but another 40 weren’t freed until morning. Several guests jumped into the lake to escape the attack, but, unable to swim, clung to a stone wall until police could rescue them in the morning. At least 20 people died in the fighting.
Coming as international forces work to stabilize the country as much as possible before handing full security responsibility to Afghans in the end of 2014, high-profile attacks like Friday’s are a serious concern for many Afghans. Carried out by small insurgent bands, the attacks usually have relatively low death tolls, but go a long way toward eroding Afghan perceptions of security.
“It is really important to counter such insurgent attacks in the capital because every high-profile attack, even if it only happens every one month or every three months, it shows that Afghanistan is unstable and the insurgents are close to the capital,” says Waliullah Rahmani, executive director of the Kabul Center for Strategic Studies. “Just waging attacks on every single target means a success for the insurgents.”
The Taliban claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack, saying that Afghan government officials and foreigners frequent the restaurant and hotel and drink alcohol there.
“The mujahideen entered a small hotel and attacked a neighboring hotel that was used by foreigners for their illicit fun and having parties. It was a special hotel for Afghan government officials and foreigners,” says Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban.