A loud explosion followed by gunfire was heard in central Kabul on Monday afternoon, according to Kabul police, as attackers attacked a guest house used mainly by Chinese nationals. An Italian-run emergency hospital less than a mile away in the Afghan capital said it had received 21 patients from the attack, three of whom had died on arrival.
A photo shared with CBS News by Kabul police showed Chinese signage on the wall of the multi-story building. A Kabul resident told CBS News over the phone that Chinese nationals have visited the hotel.
“At around 2:30 p.m., a hotel in the Shar-e-naw district of Kabul city called Kabul Hotel was attacked,” Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zadran told CBS News, adding that the hotel is being used “by some foreigners and local Afghans.”
Videos posted to social media showed fire and thick smoke rising from a window on the lower floor of the hotel building. Another video, taken from a building opposite the hotel, showed men escaping from another window — one desperately clinging to an air conditioner before falling several floors.
The chief spokesman forZabiullah Mujahid said the attack ended after three attackers were killed in a shootout. He said only two foreigners were slightly injured after escaping from the window.
The, known as ISIS-K or ISIS Khorasan, later claimed responsibility for the attack. The group has stepped up attacks since the Taliban retook control of the country and the US-led military coalition withdrew in the summer of 2021.
Monday’s complex attack, ostensibly targeting Chinese nationals, appeared to be the latest in a series of violent crackdowns targeting the few countries the Taliban can count among their allies.
On Sunday, Chinese ambassador Wang Yu met in Kabul with the Taliban regime’s deputy foreign minister, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, and called on the group to “pay more attention to the security of the Chinese embassy in Kabul”, said a statement from the Taliban foreign ministry.
Last week, gunmen attacked the Pakistani ambassador at his embassy grounds in Kabul, wounding a Pakistani guard. The ambassador himself narrowly escaped assassination. The attack was claimed by ISIS-K and the Taliban allegedly arrested suspects.
In September, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Russian embassy in the heart of Kabul, killing two Russian diplomats in what appeared to be the first attack on a foreign diplomatic mission in Afghanistan since the country’s fall to the Taliban.
Pakistan, Russia, China and Iran, some of Afghanistan’s neighbors, have all been accused of supporting the Taliban over the past 20 years. The Russians were even accused of imposing a bounty on US troops in Afghanistan.
Political analysts believe that the attacks on Taliban supporters indicate a growing danger to the country, and one that they say will only increase as ISIS and other hostile groups try to demonstrate that the Taliban is incapable of to secure the country.
“The number of attacks against countries and individuals that directly and indirectly support the Taliban will increase,” Ahmad Saeedi, a political analyst and former diplomat, told CBS News. “Afghanistan is facing a regional intelligence war in which everyone is pursuing their own interests.”
Tariq Farhadi, a former adviser to Western-backed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who now works as a political analyst, also said the Taliban should expect more such attacks against their allies. He also warned that many of the extremist group’s foot soldiers, who have not directly benefited much from the takeover, could be tempted to join opposing, possibly even more extremist, groups.
“It is possible to see a more brutal group than the Taliban and ISIS in Afghanistan in the future,” Farhadi said.