The attackers hid small pistols and ammunition in their shoes and socks, Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told reporters, but he could not say how the weapons went undetected. The hotel’s security has ignored beeps from the metal detector in the past.
At the time of the attack, Café Zarnegar, one of the main restaurants, was packed with foreigners as well as Afghans celebrating the eve of the Persian New Year, Nowruz. The hotel is popular among aid workers, journalists, contractors and diplomats who often come for brunch or dinner.
The dead included five Afghans, two Canadians, an American and a Paraguayan. Six people were wounded, including a child, a foreigner, two policemen, a hotel guard, and an Afghan lawmaker. The name of the American victim was not immediately released.
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Kimberley Motley, an American lawyer who has worked in Afghanistan for many years, was taking a bath in her second-floor room when the shots started about 9:15 p.m. Unaware that the staff and many guests had taken refuge in a basement safe room, she got out of the tub, barricaded herself in a corner of the bedroom and tried to stay as quiet as possible while gunfire rattled downstairs for hours.
After the shooting stopped about midnight she went to the lobby, which was packed with security forces and other confused guests as hotel staff handed out water and slices of cake.
“I saw them bring out four bodies. They weren’t covered,” she said Friday.
“There was a trail of blood from the restaurant to the front door,” she said. “It was blood and bullet holes.”
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Authorities said two of the gunmen went to the restaurant and killed seven victims by shooting them in the head. Two other victims were found in the halls, Sediqqi said as he displayed photos of the small pistols and ammunition the attackers used and their shoes. Police killed all four attackers — who appeared to be about 18 years old — after a three-hour standoff.
The Taliban have vowed to use violence to disrupt next month’s presidential election, which promises to result in the first democratic transfer of power since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Islamic militant movement from power.