Tag Archives: Kabul

A look back at the work of slain AFP photojournalist Shah Marai killed in Kabul

A look back at the work of slain AFP photojournalist Shah Marai killed in KabulAgence France-Presse’s chief photographer in Kabul, Shah Marai, who was killed covering a suicide bombing on Monday, was a charismatic, courageous journalist who was dedicated to reporting on Afghanistan’s wrenching conflict. The 22-year veteran of the agency leaves behind two wives and six children, including his only daughter, born earlier this month — an event that brought him great joy and was celebrated with cake at the Kabul bureau just over a week ago. Marai’s versatility and easy camaraderie was demonstrated in a message moments before the second attack, in which he reassured an AFP video colleague who was stuck in traffic and could not reach the scene.



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Tributes pour in for AFP photographer slain in Kabul

Tributes pour in for AFP photographer slain in KabulFriends and colleagues of Shah Marai have reacted with shock and grief to news of the veteran AFP photographer's death in Kabul on Monday.



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Mattis in Kabul, says elements in Taliban open to peace talks

Mattis in Kabul, says elements in Taliban open to peace talksElements of the Taliban are open to talks with the Afghan government, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday, a potentially significant move that runs counter to the insurgents’ long-term refusal to talk to Kabul. Mattis flew into the war-torn nation on an unannounced visit two weeks after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani unveiled a plan to open peace talks with the Taliban, Afghanistan’s biggest militant group. The Taliban have so far given no formal response to Kabul’s offer for negotiations, but have published a lengthy statement and an online commentary that analysts say are an oblique rejection of the proposal.



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Suicide bomber kills 9 in Kabul; Taliban kill 16 in province

Suicide bomber kills 9 in Kabul; Taliban kill 16 in provinceKABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Islamic State suicide bomber targeted Afghanistan's ethnic Hazaras on Friday, blowing himself up at a police checkpoint near a gathering of the minority Shiites in western Kabul, killing nine people and wounding 18, officials said.



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Protest in Kabul as Afghan officials press Pakistan over attacks

Protest in Kabul as Afghan officials press Pakistan over attacksAfghan demonstrators protested outside the Pakistani embassy in Kabul on Thursday as senior Afghan officials said they had handed over evidence connecting insurgents based in Pakistan with a recent spate of attacks that killed more than 100 people. The protest, in which dozens of people burnt flags and chanted, “Death to Pakistan”, was not large, but it came during a period of heightened tension in the Afghan capital following two major attacks in the past two weeks. On Thursday, Interior Minister Wais Barmak and Masooom Stanekzai, head of the NDS intelligence service, returned from a visit to Islamabad, where they had pressed Pakistani authorities to move against Taliban leaders based in the country.



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Eleven dead as Kabul military base rocked by pre-dawn Isil attack

Eleven dead as Kabul military base rocked by pre-dawn Isil attackEleven Afghan soldiers were killed in an assault on a Kabul military base on Monday, the fourth attack in Afghanistan within 10 days. Isil yesterday claimed the attack, which began at 5am as five militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles stormed the well-defended Marshal Fahim military academy. At least 16 soldiers were wounded in the attack, which lasted over five hours and ended with four of the militants being killed – two by their own suicide vests – and one arrested. Security officials at the scene said the gunmen had used a ladder to get over a wall into the post. "The Afghan National Army is the country's defence force and makes sacrifices for the security and well-being of the people," the ministry of defence said yesterday. President Ashraf Ghani denounced the attack on Monday. Gunfire and explosions were heard coming from the academy  Credit: AP Photo/ Rahmat Gul) "We appreciate the sympathies extended to us by our international partner nations," Mr Ghani said, speaking a press conference in Kabul alongside visiting Indonesian president, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. "Thank you for standing with us." Monday's assault comes amid increased attacks by the Taliban and its regional rival Isil on civilian Afghan targets, including three in the space of a week. On Jan 20, Taliban attackers stormed the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, killing at least 30. The Taliban claimed another attack a week later when over 100 were killed after a bomb hidden in an ambulance exploded in the heart of the city. Isil claimed an assault on the office of aid group Save the Children in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Wednesday in which six people were killed. Earlier this month, the Intercontinental hotel in Kabul was attacked by the Taliban  Credit: REUTERS/Omar Sobhani The increased attacks – also targeting military and government facilities – have put pressure on Afghanistan's more aggressive military strategy against the Taliban, in which it is backed by the United States. Kabul has become a growing target, amid government confidence that the new strategy is driving Taliban insurgents back from major provincial centres. In October last year, 15 cadets from the same military academy attacked on Monday, known as "Sandhurst in the Sand", were killed when the bus they were traveling in was targeted in a suicide bombing. Named after Mohammed Fahim, the country's late vice-president and a military commander of the Northern Alliance that fought the Taliban, the academy was inaugurated in 2013 after British forces oversaw building the officers' school and its training program. Analysts cast doubt over the claim of responsibility from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil), which do not have much of a foothold in Afghanistan. A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence accused the Taliban-linked Haqqani network of being behind the attack. The Taliban have dismissed suggestions they have been weakened and said Saturday's bombing was a message to President Donald Trump. "The Islamic Emirate has a clear message for Trump and his hand kissers, that if you go ahead with a policy of aggression and speak from the barrel of a gun, don't expect Afghans to grow flowers in response," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement. “Today’s attack, in a series of attacks in the last couple of weeks and likely more attacks in the coming weeks, can be counted as response to the aggressive strategy that the government of Afghanistan has been following.”



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At least 95 dead after explosion in Kabul

At least 95 dead after explosion in KabulAt least 95 people were killed and 158 people injured after explosives hidden in an ambulance were detonated at a police checkpoint in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, officials said Saturday.



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US fatalities in Kabul hotel attack

US fatalities in Kabul hotel attackAmericans were among the dead and wounded in the weekend attack by Taliban gunmen on a Kabul luxury hotel, a State Department official said Tuesday. At least 22 people were killed in Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel over the weekend as Taliban militants went room-to-room looking for guests.



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Kabul Hotel attackers 'went from room to room in search of foreigners to kill'

Kabul Hotel attackers 'went from room to room in search of foreigners to kill'Taliban militants who killed at least 22 people at a luxury Kabul hotel went from room to room searching for foreigners, according to survivors and a security source on  Monday as more details of the victims emerged. Insurgents armed with Kalashnikovs and suicide vests attacked the landmark Intercontinental Hotel overlooking the Afghan capital late Saturday in an assault that lasted more than 12 hours and prompted questions over how the attackers breached security. Guests hid behind pillars and in rooms as gunmen sprayed bullets and set fire to parts of the six-storey building. Some people climbed over balconies and used bed sheets in a desperate attempt to escape. "They were saying, 'Kill the foreigners!'," a 20-year-old hotel employee who gave his name as Hasibullah said from his hospital bed. He described hiding in a fifth-floor room and listening as the gunmen went from room to room, forcing doors open "with daggers" and killing those inside. A burned corridor of the Intercontinental Hotel a day after the attack in Kabul Credit: REUTERS Officials have said that at least 14 foreigners were killed. "They didn't want to kill the Afghans," a security source said. "The weapons and bullets they had were for the foreigners." One other witness claimed he had seen the militants beheading guests. The attack ended Sunday with all six militants killed by Afghan forces, aided by Norwegian troops. Health ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh said 22 bodies had now been taken to Kabul hospitals. "Some of the bodies (are) burned badly and need DNA tests to be identified," he said. The interior ministry gave a lower toll Monday, saying 19 people were dead. There were also conflicting accounts of the number of attackers, which the ministry had put at six. Authorities are known to understate death tolls in high-profile attacks, and much higher figures were circulating on local media. At least seven Ukrainian citizens were among the dead, the country's ambassador to Tajikistan and Afghanistan Viktor Nikitiuk told Ukrainian television 112. "A lot of Ukrainian aviation technicians work in Afghanistan. All the dead were working for the airline Kam Air and living at the Intercontinental Hotel," he said. Kam Air, an Afghan carrier, said a further two Venezuelan staff were also killed in the assault, bringing the airline's loss to at least nine of its personnel – five crew and four pilots. Captain Samad Usman Samadi, the airline's CEO, said his staff "has been shocked and they are not in normal conditions". "It will some time for them to recover," he said. Afghan security forces keep watch as smoke rises from the Intercontinental Hotel on Sunday  Credit: OMAR SOBHANI/ REUTERS One German citizen and one Kazakh citizen were also killed, their foreign ministries said. Afghan officials told AFP that senior Afghan diplomat Abdullah Poyan died along with Mufti Ahmad Farzan, a member of the High Peace Council responsible for reconciliation efforts with militants. The employee Hasibullah said he saw two "fashionably dressed" gunmen in the hotel restaurant before the assault began. The security source confirmed investigators had seen CCTV footage showing the attackers in the restaurant prior to the attack. "It was around 8.30 pm… They were sitting in the corner of the hotel and they immediately started spraying bullets," Hasibullah said. He ran to the fifth floor room and locked himself inside, though not before seeing "many" bodies on the ground. But as the gunmen went from door to door he leapt from the window in terror. "I fell on people lying in blood… it was horrific." Knocked unconscious, he awoke in hospital with a broken leg and other wounds. Another survivor said the attackers "even beheaded the guests and people inside the hotel". Noorullah, 24, said he worked at the hotel checking its security cameras, but fled to the fourth floor as the power went off and the attack began. Also describing the militants as wearing civilian clothes, he said they killed "dozens" of people, opening every single room and "raining" bullets. He, too, jumped from a window to escape. Witnesses said the hotel's security staff fled the scene as the attack unfolded. Authorities warned they were still investigating how militants breached hotel security, which was taken over by a private company three weeks ago. It was too soon to say if the militants had inside help, an interior ministry spokesman, Nasrat Rahimi said. The militants were armed with suicide vests, pistols, hand grenades and Kalashnikovs, he said. The attack followed security warnings in recent days to avoid hotels and other locations frequented by foreigners in war-torn Kabul. Security has been ramped up in the city, but the resurgent Taliban and Islamic State are both scaling up their assaults.



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Kabul hotel attack: 19 dead, including 14 foreigners, in overnight Taliban siege

Kabul hotel attack: 19 dead, including 14 foreigners, in overnight Taliban siegeAt least 19 people were killed during a 13 hour siege after Taliban gunmen in army uniforms stormed a luxury Kabul hotel popular with Afghan officials and foreigners. Eyewitnesses described how the gunmen deliberately targeted foreigners as they rampaged through the six-floor Intercontinental Hotel.   One Afghan man told the BBC that he was spared by militants who shouted "Where are the foreigners?" as they ran into the hotel's restaurant at around 9pm local time on Saturday night. At least 14 of the dead were believed to be foreign nationals, among them two Venezuelans and six Ukrainians. The gun battle ended on Sunday morning as Afghan special forces killed the last of the six gunmen, who were armed with grenades, automatic weapons and suicide vests. By 10am, Special Forces could be seen sweeping the roof of the hotel as firefighters attempted to extinguish a blaze which had ripped through the sixth floor. Thick clouds of black smoke could be seen pouring from the building, an imposing 1960s structure set on a hilltop. Afghan security personnel stand guard as black smoke rises from the Intercontinental Hotel after an attack in Kabul Credit: AP Photo/Rahmat Gul Some 150 desperate staff and guests managed to escape the building throughout the night, amid heavy gunfire and explosions. One witness told AFP that the hotel's security team fled "without a fight". Dramatic footage showed people clambering down from upper-floor balconies using bedsheets tied together. Telecoms executive Aziz Tayeb posted a desperate plea on Facebook from a hiding place behind a pillar as attackers sprayed guests and staff with bullets: "Pray for me. I may die." Mr Tayeb was at the hotel for a major IT conference set to take place yesterday. The Intercontinental hotel in Kabul is under siege from gunmen. Credit: Reuters Abdul Rahman Naseri, also at the hotel for the conference, described how he saw four gunmen dressed in army uniforms. "They were shouting in Pashto, 'Don't leave any of them alive, good or bad'. 'Shoot and kill them all,’ one of them shouted," Mr Naseri said. "I ran to my room on the second floor. I opened the window and tried to get out using a tree but the branch broke and I fell to the ground. I hurt my back and broke a leg." The attackers are believed to have got into the hotel via the kitchen, and a worker in the restaurant said the men had sat down and ordered food, before opening fire. A man tries to escape from a balcony at Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel during an attack by gunmen  Credit: Reuters "They were wearing very stylish clothes," the man, named as Haseeb, told Tolo News. "They came to me and asked for food. I served them the food and they thanked me and took their seats. Then they took out their weapons and started shooting the people." A senior security official said that the attackers had moved directly from the first floor to the fourth and fifth floors, suggesting the attack had been carefully prepared, possibly with inside help. An Afghan policeman keeps watch near the site of an attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit:  REUTERS "When the sixth floor caught fire this morning, my roommate told me, either burn or escape," said Mohammad Musa, who was hiding in his room on the top floor. "I got a bed sheet and tied it to the balcony. I tried to come down but I was heavy and my arms were not strong enough. I fell down and injured my shoulder and leg.""There were dozens of dead bodies lying around me." The Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul was previously targeted in 2011. Credit: Reuters Wahid Majroh, a spokesman for the ministry of public health, last night said 19 bodies had been brought into the city's hospitals, but a senior Afghan security official said the death toll was over 30 and might climb higher. At least 11 of the dead worked for private Afghan airline Kam Air, which on Sunday suspended domestic flights. It said a further 14 emloyees were still missing. A security personnel points his weapon near the Intercontinental Hotel after a deadly attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit: Massoud Hossaini Also among the dead was Dr Abdullah Waheed Poyan, a well-respected academic who had worked for the Afghan diplomatic corps. Interior ministry spokesman Najib Danesh said a private company had taken over responsibility for security at the hotel three weeks ago and there would be an investigation into possible failings, just days after a US embassy warning of possible attacks on hotels in Kabul. Afghan security forces arrive the site of an attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit:  REUTERS The raid was the latest in a series of attacks that have underlined the city's vulnerability and the ability of militants to mount high-profile operations aimed at undermining confidence in the Western-backed government. The Taliban, which attacked the same hotel in 2011, claimed responsibility for the attack, its spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.



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