Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, May 24th, 2020

The Attack on Spozhmai Hotel in Qarqa Lake


The Attack on Spozhmai Hotel in Qarqa Lake

Thursday and Friday of the last weekend were horrifying days for Kabul residents whose family members wentout for picnic to Qargha Lake in order to throw away week days' fatigue andexhaustion from workload. Perhaps, the unleash of waves of breaking and briefingnews made many to freak out and call their family members and friends, askingwhether they were ok or not.

Those who went to picnicand stayed to pass Friday night there likely let their families to shed tearsin fear of possible risk to their lives. Finally, for many, the pitcheddarkness of the night ended and dawn appeared with happiness, but for someothers the dawn appeared but not as start of a fresh day. Hearing about assassinationof their relatives changed many residents in Kabul to scream and shed tears in pain. Latest reports on Friday put the total death toll to 20 bodies,excluding injured ones. Perhaps, it was bloodiest day in lakeside resort.

On Saturday night, June 21,militants attacked Spozhmai hotel which is a large hotel overlooking Qarqhalakeside, with rocket propelled grenades, suicide vests and machine guns. With theirentrance, there were around 300 guests and many rushed out to get rid of suicidebombers. Those who were saved talked about hiding just outside the building shieldedonly by darkness of the night. Meanwhile, militants could manage to take around50 people as hostage.

The interior ministryofficials said that hostages were taken only to use them as human shield fortheir lives. They were successful as they could resist against Afghan securityforces and NATO helicopters around 12 hours when ultimately the last insurgentwas shot dead. Though the hotel was soon surrounded by Afghan security forces backedby NATO helicopters, but the Friday night passed with sporadic firings andmilitants could open fire while afghan security forces did not have similar stage tostorm the hotel in order to avoid civilian casualties. With sunrise, they wereable to distinguish between civilians and militants in order to lessenthe level of civilian casualties.

Finally, from 50 taken hostages, 35 were saved and the rest were killed, but not clear whether they were killed due to exchangeof fire or shot dead by militants. However, after the end of operation while condemningthe attack with harsh possible tone, Afghan officials in consensus labeled theoperation a success story, but it is up to you how you observe and consider thehigh level of civilian casualties.

There are some otherissues to be noticed. As a person, who claimed watching closely the militants said that militants were searching for bottles of alcoholwhich is illegal in the country. Right after the attack, Taliban leadersaccepted the responsibility and blamed wealthy Afghans using the hotel for servingalcohol and providing prostitute to its customers.

From such allegations itcan be concluded that the hotel was stormed to target any foreign residents,Afghan officials and security forces as usually they were doing. Nearby, thereis no public office to be the prime target.
On the other hand, Talibanleaders propagate not to harm common civilians however they are doing, butavoided to take operation setting civilians as prime target. Even on Friday'sattack, guests were not the target as they could have killed all their hostagesbefore kneeling to death.

It needs further investigation how all those civilians were killed. Questions likethose who were shot dead by militants whether hotel employees, guests orwhoever tried to run away and save their lives. But there is no doubt, consumption of has become widely spread and someplaces of Kabul drinking does not raise traditional abhorrence.

I do not have any accuratestatistic about the percentage of alcohol consumption, but many of the youngsterssay that they are regularly drinking. However, it is illegal and sellers can bepersecuted but security forces and officials are also drinking. If someone iscaught with alcohol, it is hard he would not be prisoned because paying cash orgiving bottles of wine to police, he would be released.

So, it can be inferred thatFriday's attack was Taliban campaign against alcohol consumption. It needs tobe investigated how they could manage to come to Qarqha Lake while there arepolice checkpoints on roads to the lake. Whether some individual in thelocality had hand behind because it can be assumed that local people are not verymuch convenient with increasing hotels and parks established to attract largernumber of people to spend their time. How militants with all heavy and huge weapons theywere carrying were not noticed by people till they could kill two of hotel guards and storm the hotel.

Secondly, the tactics usedby militants is much similar to recent attacks in other parts of the country. Suicidebombers are not coming and exploding their vests and killing targetedindividuals along with people nearby, including themselves. In this tactic, beforeexploding themselves open fires and fight with security forces and ultimatelyif found chance pull the trigger of suicide vests. This tactic is new and yearsago were not used by militants or suicide bombers.

Perhaps, such a tacticdeals maximum destruction and has proved to be effective in dealing blow to targeted areas. However, Taliban always accepted responsibilities of such attacks,but many refer them to Haqqani network which is active in tribal areas of Pakistan close to Afghan borders. In spite of widely accepted issue that Haqqani asdifferent network with different leadership, potential to carry out highly successfuloperations, Taliban leaders frequently have emphasized on the unity of both groups.

If the attack reveals to be carried out by Haqqani network, it is highlypossible the relation of Kabul and Islamabad would be further disturbed and the United States and its allies will try to mount pressure on Pakistan as they maintain thatHaqqani network is active in Pakistan.

Masood Korosh is the staff writer of Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlookafghanistan@gmial.com

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