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'Four U.S. Citizens Killed,' Two Hurt In Kabul Hotel Attack


An Afghan police officer stands guard in front of the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul.

The State Department has confirmed that four U.S. citizens were killed and two others wounded in the recent attack on Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel by Taliban militants that left an estimated 30 people dead.

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert on January 24 said the State Department would not immediately provide further details out of respect for the relatives of those who died in the January 20 assault.

"We can confirm that there were four U.S. citizens killed and two injured. We offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who were killed and wish for the speedy recovery of those wounded," Nauert said in a statement.

U.S. officials had previously said that several American citizens were killed and injured, but they did not provide exact figures.

Afghan officials have said 11 of the 14 foreigners killed were employees of KamAir, a private Afghan airline.

Discrepancies remain as to the number of people killed. Senior Afghan security officials have put the figure at 22 to 30 people, although some local reports have said 40 people were killed.

Six attackers were also killed by security forces, although some reports stated there were only five assailants.

The militants, dressed in army uniforms, launched the assault on the luxury hotel in the Afghan capital in the evening on January 20.

Officials said the gunmen charged through the hallways and sought out foreigners and Afghan officials inside the hotel. More than 150 people, including 41 foreigners, were rescued or managed to escape during the siege.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said on January 21 that six of those killed were Ukrainians, and added that his office was working with Afghan law enforcement agencies "to clarify the circumstances of this terrorist act."

However, Ukraine’s ambassador to Tajikistan and Afghanistan, Viktor Nikityuk, told the 112 Ukraine TV channel on January 22 that seven Ukrainian citizens working for KamAir had died in the attack.

A citizen from Kazakhstan was also among the dead, according to a spokesman for the Kazakh Foreign Ministry.

'Brutal Terrorist Attack'

Afghan security officials speculated that the attack was timed to take place as more than 30 provincial officials were at the hotel, attending a conference organized by the Telecommunications Ministry.

Among the dead was Ahmad Farzan, an employee of the High Peace Council, a commission tasked with facilitating peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban as well as other opposition groups.

An initial investigation showed the insurgents had gained access to the hotel from the north side and stormed its kitchen. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack at the heavily guarded hotel, which is popular with foreigners and Afghan officials.

The Interior Ministry blamed the extremist Haqqani network, which is based in Pakistan and allied with the Taliban.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has ordered an investigation and said militant groups were being helped by neighboring countries.

Afghan officials, along with U.S. President Donald Trump, have accused neighboring Pakistan of providing a safe haven for terrorists operating in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad denies.

Pakistan also condemned the "brutal terrorist attack" and called for greater cooperation against militants.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

Trump in August unveiled his new strategy for the South Asia region, under which Washington has deployed 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan to train, advise, and assist local security forces, and to carry out counterterrorism missions.

The United States currently has around 14,000 uniformed personnel in the country. Witnesses reported seeing U.S. military vehicles at the site after the attack assisting Afghan security personnel.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, tolonews.com, AP, Interfax, and The Stars & Stripes
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