AFP reporter, family among nine killed in Kabul hotel attack

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Afghan police forces arrive at the site of a gun battle in Kabul’s Serena Hotel on Thursday.— Photo: AP
Afghan police forces arrive at the site of a gun battle in Kabul’s Serena Hotel on Thursday.— Photo: AP

At least nine civilians including an Agence France-Presse reporter, children and foreigners were killed in a Taliban attack on a luxury hotel here, officials said Friday, just weeks before Afghanistan’s 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, a 40-year-old journalist in AFP’s Kabul bureau, was among those killed along with his wife and two of their three children.

An AFP photographer identified the four bodies at a city hospital and said the family’s youngest son was undergoing emergency treatment after being badly wounded in the attack. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he was deeply saddened by Ahmad’s death.

AFP chairman Emmanuel Hoog said the killing was “immensely painful and an enormous loss” for the agency.

He described Ahmad as a “dedicated and courageous journalist, a cornerstone of our team in Afghanistan who delivered, every day, exceptional coverage of the news in extremely difficult conditions.”

The Serena attack was claimed by the Taliban, who have vowed a campaign of violence to disrupt the April 5 poll which will decide a successor to Karzai.

The attackers reached the hotel’s restaurant around 8.30 p.m. (1600 GMT) 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.

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.

Mr. Loizaga named him as Luis Maria Duarte, a lawyer who also worked for the United Nations.

The attack ended around 11:30 pm when Afghan security forces killed the last of the attackers, the spokesman said, adding that most of the hotel guests had been able to take shelter in special safe rooms. — AFP



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