ISLAMABAD - In the aftermath of a militant gun attack on Kabul's Serena Hotel, Afghanistan's Interior Ministry spokesman said Friday that the dearh toll is nine people, including four foreigners.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Seddiqui said the foreigners included two from Bangladesh, one Canadian and a Paraguayan. Earlier he had said a New Zealand national, a Pakistani and an Indian were among the dead.
Among the Afghan victims was a reporter for the French news agency Agence France Presse, his wife and two of his three young children.
AFP identified the man Friday as Sardar Ahmad, a 40-year-old journalist in its Kabul bureau. The agency reported that Ahmad's s youngest son was undergoing emergency treatment after being badly wounded.
The Taliban is claiming responsibility for the attack. The militant group, which has promised to disrupt plans for the April 5 Afghan presidential election, has carried out attacks across the country, killing some 30 people during the past five days.
Seddiqui described the scene, saying gunmen arrived at the hotel around 8:30 p.m., then walked toward the restaurant.
“As soon as they find the restaurant, they enter and start shooting indiscriminately on people who were in the hotel," he said. "Only seven of them in the restaurant, but two of outside the restaurant, close to the lobby, one in the lobby and the other was close to the restaurant.
"And they also killed and shot on the head, the two kids who were there, unfortunately," he said. "This is a very brutal act of terrorism.”
Security guards in the hotel returned fire, killing two of the gunmen. Two others hid inside a restroom.
Security forces moved in to secure all the guests, then cornered the gunmen and shot them. The last one was killed at 11:30 p.m. The four gunmen were reportedly teenagers.
Among the wounded are one foreign national, Afghan lawmaker Habibullah Gul, two police officers and a hotel guard.
Seddiqui said an investigation is underway as to how the gunmen managed to get into the hotel, which is protected by blast walls, metal detectors and a guard force.
At first glance, he said, it appeared to be a failure of the hotel’s own security measures.
“When you get to the hotel there are lots of security guards, lots of checking, 100 percent ID checking, and they have those necessary equipments to find where that gun was hidden, that pistol was hidden," he said.
"It’s very obvious, it gives the conclusion that yes, it was an absolute failure of that system, a very closed security system,” he said.
Seddiqui said the attack had the marks of a Taliban or Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network operation.
The Taliban has vowed to disrupt the upcoming election, which it dismisses as a Western-led sham, and target those participating.
But Seddiqui said the country would not be deterred by such threats.
“We are very committed, and we are trying our best to make sure we can prevent these kinds of attacks in the future," he said. "The police, the intelligence units, everybody is working very, very hard.
"We are very much prepared for the elections," he said. "But this kind of attacks will not deter us from reaching our objective and goals, and that is the security of the elections.”
Kabul’s Serena hotel is considered one of the safer places to stay in the capital, and houses many foreigners, including U.N. workers and journalists.
Both the U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force condemned the attack.
It was the worse assault on the Kabul Serena Hotel since a suicide bomber blew himself up inside the hotel in 2008, killing six.
Afghan officials say nine civilians were killed when four teenage Taliban gunmen penetrated the security of a luxury Kabul hotel with guns stuffed in their socks and opened fire.
Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi said the four attackers were shot dead. He also confirmed that foreign civilians were among those killed in the incident Thursday.
"The attackers were killed in three hours by the Afghan security forces. Unfortunately, nine people were also killed by the attackers, four of them foreigners, from New Zealand, one from Canada and one from Pakistan and India, and also five others were Afghans, among them two children and two women, and there were six other wounded in this attack,” said Sediqi.
Officials say the gunmen walked into the Serena Hotel in the early evening and waited about three hours before firing. All were said to be younger than 18 years old.
The Taliban is claiming responsibility for the attack. The militant group has promised to disrupt plans for the April 5 Afghan presidential election.
A suicide bomber attacked the Serena Hotel in 2008, killing at least six people.