Taliban militants have attacked a hotel in northwestern Afghanistan, killing at least four police officers and two civilians, just days after negotiators for the extremist group had met for peace talks in Qatar with a special U.S. envoy.
Interior Ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi said five suicide bombers stormed a hotel in Qal-e Naw, the provincial capital of Badghis Province, around 12:30 p.m. on July 13.
Rahimi reported that the siege at the hotel ended after nearly five hours, with three attackers killed by security forces and two others arrested. The two civilians killed had been guests of the hotel, hospital officials said.
Eyewitnesses told RFE/RL that the area was cordoned off by security forces. A witness told AFP that the attackers first hit a police checkpoint and then entered the hotel and began firing at guests.
Aziz Bek, head of the Badghis provincial council, told AFP that nearby schools were evacuated and that explosions could be heard throughout the city.
Abdul Latif Rustahi, head of the Badghis state hospital, told RFE/RL that 16 people had been admitted to the hospital, including 10 members of the security forces and six civilians, including a woman and two children.
Taliban spokesman Mohammad Yusef Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the incident and said suicide attackers had stormed the hotel.
The attack came as the United States has begun a fresh push to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table to end the nearly 18-year Afghan conflict.
The U.S. peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has held eight rounds of peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar. He described the latest round that ended on July 9 as the "most productive" ever.
Taliban negotiators also reported good progress at the talks, but violence has continued nevertheless in war-ravaged Afghanistan.
On July 13, the NATO-led Resolute Support mission said a U.S. service member was killed in Afghanistan.
A statement did not provide any details surrounding the circumstances of the soldier’s death.
It brought the tally of U.S. service-member deaths in Afghanistan to at least seven this year.
The United States has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a 23,000-strong NATO-led mission that is training and assisting the government’s security forces in their fight against Taliban militants and other extremist groups such as Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.
The Kabul government has struggled to fend off the extremists nearly two decades after a U.S.-led coalition drove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan in 2001.
Taliban Fighters Attack Hotel In Northwestern Afghanistan, Killing At Least Six