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    NATO Airstrike Kills Militant Leader Linked to Kabul Hotel Attack

    A rear part of the InterContinental hotel that caught on fire has turned to black after it was attacked by militants in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 29, 2011
    A rear part of the InterContinental hotel that caught on fire has turned to black after it was attacked by militants in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 29, 2011

    NATO says it has killed a top Haqqani network leader in Afghanistan who is suspected of aiding militants who attacked a Kabul hotel late Tuesday.

    In a statement Thursday, NATO said it killed Ismail Jan and several Haqqani fighters in an airstrike in Paktiya province near the Pakistani border.  It said Jan was the deputy to the senior Haqqani commander in Afghanistan, and has led a group of fighters in attacks against Afghan and coalition security forces since late 2010.

    A five-hour highly coordinated siege of the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul by heavily armed militants ended early Wednesday after all nine attackers either blew themselves up or were killed by Afghan and NATO forces.  The attack killed 11 people, including Afghan hotel workers, police officers, and one Spanish guest.  Eight others were also wounded.

    NATO blamed the attack on the Haqqani network, which it says worked along with Taliban militants.  The Taliban has also claimed responsibility.

    President Karzai Wednesday condemned the attack on the landmark hotel as a "ruthless act of terror."  He praised the rapid response by security forces and said the attack will not stop the process of transferring security control from foreign to Afghan forces, which is due to begin in July.

    U.S. President Barack Obama said Wednesday the Afghan capital is "much safer than it was and that Afghan forces are much more capable than they were."  He added the United States is "being successful" in its mission in Afghanistan and that it is in the U.S. national interest that Afghanistan "not collapse."

    The siege on the Inter-Continental came on the eve of a conference focused on Afghan preparations for the security handover.  Several Afghan provincial officials taking part in the event were staying at the hotel.

    The Inter-Continental was for years the Afghan capital's main hotel, and is frequented by foreigners.  Afghan security officials say they are investigating how the militants were able to get past several security checkpoints to reach the hotel.

    NATO helicopters helped end the five-hour stand-off after killing the last of the gunmen who were hiding on the hotel's roof.  NATO spokesman Master Sergeant Jason Haag said coalition forces mobilized at the request of the Afghan Interior Ministry but the response was conducted primarily by the Afghan forces.

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