More Than 20 Die In Taliban Attack On Afghan Resort

Taliban militants attacked a lakeside resort just outside Kabul on Thursday, setting off a night-long siege that left dozens dead and wounded.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In Afghanistan late last night, Taliban militants attacked a popular resort area near Kabul, where families gather on weekends.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNFIRE)

SIEGEL: The militants battled Afghan security forces for hours. More than 20 people died, as NPR's Sean Carberry reports.

SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: Shortly before midnight, four Taliban fighters wearing explosive vests and armed with guns and rocket-propelled grenades killed three security guards at the entrance to the Qargha Lake Resort. The assailants proceeded inside to the Spozhmai Restaurant, where hundreds of guests were eating dinner. Witnesses say there was utter panic as the attackers riddled the restaurant with bullets and lobbed grenades.

Blood, bodies and broken glass were littered everywhere. Most of the guests fled to the wooded surroundings, but 17 civilians and one Afghan policeman died in the assault. And approximately 40 people were held hostage during the ensuing standoff with security forces.

ROSAL KHAN: (Speaking foreign language).

CARBERRY: Rosal Khan(ph) is a 10-year-old boy who was helping out in the restaurant at the time of the attack. He says the insurgents shot a man standing next to him. He ran to the lobby and hid under a table for several hours. He escaped at sunrise.

ABDULLAH: (Speaking foreign language).

CARBERRY: Abdullah(ph) is a 14-year-old who was also working in the restaurant. He says two gunmen approached him and demanded to know where the adulterers were. He told the men he didn't know. They threatened to beat him, but they left him to interrogate others.

The Taliban claim that they attacked the resort because people engage in immoral behavior there, especially on Thursday nights, the beginning of the Afghan weekend. The militants also claim to have killed 25 foreigners and 14 Afghan officials in the attack.

The entire episode lasted nearly 12 hours, until Afghan forces and NATO troops, including Norwegian special forces, killed the remaining assailants. Sean Carberry, NPR News, Kabul.

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