KABUL, Afghanistan — At least 14 people were killed in a Taliban attack at a popular Kabul hotel late Wednesday night, when a gunman went room to room killing guests, according to witnesses and Afghan and foreign officials.
The attack, on the Park Palace Hotel, left five Afghans and nine foreigners dead, including an American woman, four Indians, two Pakistanis and an Italian, according to an Afghan security official and foreign diplomatic officials.
As violence has surged across much of the country this year, Kabul has been spared attacks in the last few months for the most part. Many hotels and restaurants that cater to foreigners have increased their security, particularly after an attack in March of 2014 at the Serena Hotel that killed nine people and the suicide bombing in January 2014 at the popular cafe Taverna du Liban that killed 21.
The police in Kabul said they were still investigating how the gunman got past security guards and into the hotel, a pink two-story building in a wealthy part of Kabul. It was not known whether there had been a struggle with the assailant at the hotel’s gate.
The attack began on Wednesday evening, not long before a concert featuring one of Afghanistan’s most famous classical musicians was about to begin in the hotel’s courtyard. With the musicians still in their rooms, gunfire erupted outside, witnesses said.
Several people were killed in the courtyard, a number of the hotel’s expatriate guests were shot in their rooms as a gunman went door to door, apparently targeting foreigners, according to survivors and hotel employees.
“They entered each room and killed as many as they could,” said a police officer stationed outside the hotel the morning after the attack.
Among the foreigners who were killed were several auditors assisting the Afghan government and a consultant working with Afghanistan’s Agricultural Ministry. The American Embassy refused to identify the American victim or her affiliation.
A musician, Eltaf Hussain, a well-known Afghan singer and harmonium player, was wounded in the attack, although he said he did not see his assailant. He and his band mates were inside the hotel preparing, when he said he suddenly heard a flurry of bangs. “First we ignored it and thought it might be something else,” he said in a phone interview. But as the gunfire grew louder, the musicians tried to hide, he said.
Mr. Hussain said that the death toll could have been higher, but the entire audience had not yet arrived when the attack occurred. The band’s drummer, Khalid Hamahang, said that descendants of former Afghan king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, had been expected to attend.
Once the shooting began, it lasted at least six hours before the Afghan police declared that the hotel was firmly in their control. More than 50 people inside the hotel survived, the police said.
The number of gunmen involved in the attack remained a source of debate. Initially, the Afghan police officials said that there were probably four or five gunmen, although by Thursday morning the Afghan authorities said they had only discovered one gunman, who was killed by the police.
Until Thursday afternoon, both the Kabul police spokesman as well as the top investigator for the Kabul police declared that only five people had been killed in the attack, refusing to acknowledge the actual death toll. A statement issued by the United Nations, in condemnation of the attack, said 14 people had died. An Afghan security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed those figures.
In a statement, the Taliban’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that it had been conducted by a gunman named Mohammad Edris, who was armed with a pistol, a rifle, and a suicide vest. The Taliban spokesman said that the hotel was targeted “in order to attack the important meeting of senior Americans and other foreigners.”