KABUL - The U.S.-led coalition on Thursday blamed an Al-Qaida affiliated network working jointly with Taliban fighters for a deadly attack on a luxury hotel in Kabul — an assault that raised doubts about the ability of Afghan forces to handle security as foreign troops withdraw.
The coalition also reported that a leader with the Haqqani network suspected of having provided assistance, including weapons, fighters and training, to the gunmen who attacked the Intercontinental hotel was killed Wednesday night in a precision airstrike. Ismail Jan, the deputy to the senior Haqqani commander inside Afghanistan, and other Haqqani fighters died in the airstrike in Gardez, the provincial capital of Paktia province, the coalition said.
Eight suicide bombers launched an attack on the hotel late Tuesday, triggering an hours-long standoff with Afghan security forces, who were assisted by coalition mentors and NATO helicopters. In all, 19 people were killed, including the eight attackers.
The Haqqani network, which has ties to both Al-Qaida and the Taliban, has emerged as one of the biggest threats to stability in Afghanistan.
Jan, who moved from Pakistan into Afghanistan late last year, used to command 25 to 35 fighters who attacked Afghan and coalition forces along the Pak-Afghan border in Khost and Paktia provinces.
Jan's location in Paktia was pinpointed with the help of tips from Afghan government officials, citizens and insurgent informants, the coalition said.
The Kabul hotel assault was one of the biggest and most complex attacks ever orchestrated in the Afghan capital and appeared designed to show that the insurgents are capable of striking even in the center of power at a time when U.S. officials are speaking of progress in the nearly 10-year war.
The attack came on the eve of a two-day conference about plans for Afghan forces to take the lead responsibility for security in seven areas of Afghanistan starting next month. Security is to be shouldered by Afghan security forces across the whole nation by the end of 2014 when international forces are to be assigned to support roles or sent home. (AP)