Following the 17-hour-long siege of Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel on Saturday evening, which claimed lives of an estimated 43 people, a number of former military officers and residents sharply criticized the investigative and intelligence departments for their failure to prevent such an attack on the capital.
The military officers said the intelligence agencies are incapable of gathering information to thwart such incidents.
On Saturday evening six Taliban fighters stormed the hotel in Kabul and engaged in a gun fight with security forces for about 17 hours.
A reliable source said late Sunday that the death toll could be as high as 43, including at least 11 foreign nationals, who were trapped in the hotel at the time of the siege.
Kabul residents and military analysts also blasted intelligence agencies for not having prevented the attack.
A former military officer, who was once in charge of the hotel’s security, said there is no doubt that the insurgents had help from inside the hotel.
“Until government strengthens the investigative and intelligence departments and while it has no influence over the enemy to gain information and discover their plans, it will not be able to prevent such attacks,” former military officer Mohammad Agul Mujahid said.
Meanwhile, security forces said the attackers entered the hotel from a back entrance behind the hotel and then stormed the kitchen. They then shot their way into the hotel’s lobby and systematically moved through the building.
Until three weeks ago, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) had been responsible for the hotel’s security but 21 days ago this responsibility was handed over to a private security company.
“Preliminary reports say that they (insurgents) entered the kitchen from the north part of the hotel and then entered the first lobby and then started fighting with the security forces,” interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said.
A number of eyewitnesses, however, said some of the attackers had been positioned in the hotel in advance.
“It is due to poor management. If I go to the Intercontinental Hotel I will be searched at 12 up to 13 points and I won’t be allowed to take a mobile phone with me,” Shir Mohammad, a resident of the area said.
“The gates get opened for the vehicles with blacked out windows and no one stops them and asks them who they are and where they are going,” Abdul Qahar, another resident of the area said.
According to the interior ministry, security forces rescued around 150 people in total who had been trapped in the hotel for hours during the siege. Among those rescued were dozens of foreigners.
“Security forces were trying to rescue those trapped there and the operation lasted for a long time and the security forces were able to rescue over 150 people's lives,” interior deputy spokesman Nusrat Rahimi said.
A number of wounded survivors and relatives of victims’ families meanwhile blasted the relevant security departments for what they said was negligence in terms of taking action. They said that people had been trapped for hours – most of them through the night – before being rescued.
As the fights continued through the night and into Sunday, a number of people trapped inside the hotel became so desperate to flee not only the gun battle but also a raging fire in the building, that they could be seen escaping over balconies.
Some of them jumped from the upper floors to escape the insurgents. They said after waiting for hours, no one came to rescue them and that they then chose to jump – some badly injured in the process.
However, in one dramatic scene captured by TOLOnews, a man seen falling from a 6th floor balcony survived. His one leg did break in the fall however.
“Unfortunately negligence is widespread and from 9:00 pm up to 11:00 am government could not rescue those trapped in the hotel,” Aziz Ahmad Hanif, a family member of one wounded survivor said.
Relatives of some of those who were trapped said that from 9pm until 4am no effort was made to rescue those trapped inside the hotel – all while insurgents went from room to room shooting people.
Noorullah, who was trapped in the hotel, said he waited for hours in the hope of being rescued, but when the attackers entered his room he jumped from the fourth floor to get away from them.
“Allah rescued me. I jumped down and then did not know what happened. My uncle searched and finally found me,” Noorullah said.
Meanwhile a number of parliament members also sharply criticized security forces for having not carried out a rescue operation earlier.
“We have helicopters, planes, improved technical tools and commando forces who could enter the hotel from the air to rescue those trapped there, but unfortunately this did not happen,” Abdul Khaliq Zazai, a member of Kabul provincial council said.
“The enemy's number is not a lot. If we advance systematically and accept to lose one or two members (forces) we can rescue dozen of others,” Moqadam Amin, a military analyst said.
The wounded people have been transferred to state hospitals and some of them are in critical condition.