March 21, 2014
Andrew Nguyen
Posted with permission from Toronto Star

KABUL—Two Canadians are dead after a brazen attack by the Taliban on a hotel in Kabul, according to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Acts of terror must not go unpunished, and those who perpetrated this violence and those who support the Taliban, must be held accountable,” said a statement from John Babcock.

“Canada condemns this brazen and cowardly attack on a hotel in Kabul. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of two Canadian Citizens who were killed in Afghanistan,” he added.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is expected to release a statement.

Four young men managed to smuggle small pistols and ammunition stuffed in their socks and the soles of their shoes into the Serena Hotel, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.

The men told the guards they were going to dinner and after minutes of searching for the restaurant they opened fire killing five Afghans and four foreigners.

In order to enter the hotel, guests must pass through a gate, a metal detector and a pat down. Authorities reportedly were stunned after the men evaded the tight security at the hotel — considered one of the safest places in Kabul. The restaurant was packed with Afghans celebrating the eve of the Persian New Year, Nowruz as well as foreigners who frequent the hotel.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the assault on the hotel and said the men were targeting those foreigners and dignitaries. He also claimed responsibility for an earlier attack on a police station in Jalalabad, which killed at least 10 people. The two attacks come in the weeks leading up to Afghanistan’s presidential election in April.

Sediqqi said most of the civilians were killed when two of the attackers walked into the restaurant and began shooting, while the others were shot to death as the gunmen made their way through the hotel. Police killed all four attackers after a three-hour standoff, with shooting resounding through the cordoned off streets outside.

The attackers appeared to be about 18 years old and all were killed, Sediqqi said at a press conference, displaying photos of the small pistols and ammunition the attackers used and shoes in which they hid their weapons.

Originally, Afghan authorities said only two security guards were wounded in the attack. Sediqqi said Friday that two of the victims were children who were shot in the head.

He added that details surrounding the incident have changed as authorities piece together how the shooting happened.

Around 5 a.m., Agence France-Presse confirmed that their reporter Sardar Ahmad, his wife and two of their children were killed in the shooting. Sardar Ahmad, 40, also ran the Kabul Pressistan media company and joined AFP in 2003 to become the agency's senior reporter in Kabul. He covered all aspects of life, war and politics in his native Afghanistan, according to a statement tweeted by the agency.

Details about the two Canadians have not yet been released.

With files from the Associated Press