Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Afghanistan: More on the Serena attack

The country's intelligence chief linked Monday's deadly attack on the Serena Hotel — a well-guarded, high-profile property in Kabul frequented by Westerners — to Pakistani militant, Mullah Abdullah.

Afghan officials arrested four people, and said they included one of the three attackers, who was disguised in a police uniform for the assault.

Amrullah Saleh, the head of Afghanistan's intelligence service, said police found a video made by two of the attackers in a home in Kabul, where they arrested two men. Police also arrested a man they said was one of the attackers, while a fourth man — believed to have driven the attackers to the hotel — was arrested in eastern Afghanistan while trying to flee to Pakistan.

About Mullah Abdullah:
Saleh said the attack was masterminded by Mullah Abdullah, a close ally of Pakistani militant leader Siraj Haqqani. Haqqani is thought to be based in Miran Shah, the main town in Pakistan's lawless tribal region of North Waziristan and the U.S. military has a $200,000 bounty out on him. Saleh said he did not known whether Abdullah is Afghan or Pakistani.

About Siraj Haqqani:
In late October the U.S. military singled out Siraj Haqqani and his network as a major threat in eastern Afghanistan. Siraj Haqqani, the son of the influential Taliban leader and former defense minister Jalaluddin Haqqani, was described as "one of the most influential insurgent commanders in eastern Afghanistan" who has "vied for the lead role as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s prime antagonist."

Siraj is believed to be the new breed of Taliban leadership in Afghanistan: dangerous not only for his connections with the Afghan Taliban, but with al Qaeda's central leadership. The younger Haqqani's "extended reach brings foreign fighters from places like Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, Turkey and Middle Eastern countries into Afghanistan,"

More about the attack itself. (One of the brave mujahideen was a chicken shit. Or perhaps he was the cell leader that was too valuable to go splodey-dope?)
Saleh said three militants stormed the hotel just after 6 p.m., hunting down Westerners who hid in the gym. A guard shot and killed one attacker at the gate to the hotel parking lot, which triggered his suicide vest. A second attacker blew himself up near the entrance to the hotel lobby, and the third attacker made it inside the hotel and shot his way through the lobby and toward the gym, Saleh said. The third attacker wore a police uniform and an explosive vest, he said.

Saleh displayed a picture taken from the hotel's security cameras showing the gunman disguised in a police uniform inside the hotel lobby. "The third person, after killing a number of the guests, maybe he changed his mind for some reason, he didn't detonate himself," Saleh said. "He changed his clothes and later when security forces searched the premises, he was arrested."

Guess who rode to the rescue? God bless our troops.
More than 30 U.S. soldiers in a half-dozen Humvees rushed to the scene, and security personnel from the nearby U.S. Embassy ran through the hotel in search of Americans.

Samina Ahmed, the South Asia project director for the International Crisis Group, was in her hotel room when the attack began. She said a hotel employee led her to the basement but there was little protection until U.S. troops arrived.