Four Taliban gunmen were shot dead after they opened fire in a luxury hotel catering to foreigners in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, Thursday. The incident comes ahead of Afghanistan's presidential elections next month.
Afghan security forces found the young gunmen hiding in bathrooms of the Serena Hotel and shot them dead.
Officials say the suspects hid guns in their socks and walked into the hotel in the early evening. They waited about three hours before firing. All were said to be younger than 18 years old.
At least two guards were wounded as guests scrambled for safety.
Ambulances were seen rushing to the hotel, which Afghan security forces quickly cordoned off.
The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying a number of suicide bombers had entered the hotel from a back door. A militant spokesman claimed heavy casualties to both Afghan and foreign nationals. The Taliban is known to exaggerate casualty claims.
A suicide bomber attacked the same hotel in 2008, leaving six people dead.
The violence is the latest in a string of attacks on Afghan security forces and international workers. Earlier Thursday, Taliban militants stormed a police station in the eastern city of Jalalabad, killing at least 10 officers. On Tuesday, they set off a suicide bomb at the entrance to a busy market in northern Faryab province.
Omar Samad, a security analyst with Silkroad Consulting, said the Taliban attacks are an attempt to disrupt the April 5 presidential elections, which the militants consider a Western project.
“So Westerners, the United Nations included, and those who work for these types of organizations, to their eyes are seen as part and parcel of the enemy, and it also adds to the psychological impact as well,” he said.
Samad said he expects the attacks by the Taliban and its affiliated militants to increase.
“So you have ballots on the one hand and you have bullets in the other," he said. "My hope as an Afghan is that all Afghans will have an opportunity to use the ballot and not be swayed by the bullet.”
Hidden behind blast walls and protected by guards, the Serena Hotel is considered one of the safest buildings in Kabul.