Activists’ strike against the Kabul Longan hotel on Monday afternoon sent plumes of smoke billowing from the 10-storey building in the heart of the city, according to footage posted on social media. Residents reported explosions and gunshots.
Taliban forces rushed into the area and blocked all roads leading to the site in the central Shar-e Naw district. Khalid Zadran, the Taliban-appointed spokesman for Kabul’s police chief, said the attack lasted several hours, followed by a clearing operation.
Hours later, the regional affiliate of the Islamic State group – a key rival to the Taliban since they seized power in Afghanistan more than a year ago – claimed responsibility for the attack.
In a statement carried by one of the militant Telegram channels used by IS, the group said two of its members had targeted the hotel because it is frequented by diplomats and belongs to “Communist China”.
The statement further claims that the IS attackers detonated two bags containing explosives that had been left in the hotel earlier, including one in the main lobby, and set part of the hotel on fire. The militant group has provided no evidence for its claims.
There were conflicting reports as to the number of casualties.
Taliban officials said three attackers were killed; According to IS, only two of its members took part in the attack, identifying them by name and displaying their photographs.
According to Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, two foreign residents were injured when they jumped out of windows to escape the fighting.
But Kabul Emergency Hospital said in a tweet that it had received 21 injured people, including the bodies of three people.
On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin called the attack “blatant in nature” and said China was “deeply shocked”.
China demanded a “thorough investigation” and urged the Taliban government “to take resolute and strong measures to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens, institutions and projects in Afghanistan”, Wang said.
The Chinese Embassy in Kabul sent its team to the scene to help rescue, treat and house the victims of the attack.
“Given the current security situation in Afghanistan, the Foreign Ministry has again advised Chinese citizens and institutions in Afghanistan to evacuate Afghanistan as soon as possible,” Wang said.
ISIS’s regional affiliate – known as the Islamic State in Khorasan province – has increased its attacks since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August 2021.
Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.