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Taliban warns of restaurant attacks in Kabul; Afghans arrest 4 in hotel bombing
Afghanistan Hotel E 5295719
Amrullah Saleh, the head of Afghanistan's intelligence service, speaks during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2008. Afghan officials arrested a militant in a police uniform who was part of a three-man attack on Kabul's main luxury hotel that killed eight, officials said Tuesday. - photo by Associated Press
    KABUL, Afghanistan — A Taliban spokesman warned Tuesday that militants would increase attacks against restaurants in Kabul frequented by Westerners, a day after eight people died in a brazen assault on a luxury hotel in the Afghan capital.
    Afghan officials said they had arrested four men following Monday’s assault on the Serena Hotel a heavily guarded and high-profile property frequented by Western workers and officials. Among those detained was one of the attackers disguised in a police uniform.
    ‘‘We will target all these restaurants in Kabul where foreigners are eating,’’ Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told The Associated Press by phone. ‘‘We have jihadists in Kabul right now and soon we will carry out more attacks against military personnel and foreigners.’’
    Taliban spokesmen commonly boast of plans to increase their attacks, threats that often are not realized. But in the past two years, militants have stepped up suicide attacks, and the multi-pronged bombing and shooting against the Serena was the first of its kind against a facility popular with Westerners.
    Afghan officials accused a militant connected to an insurgent leader in Pakistan of masterminding the attack. At least one American, a Norwegian reporter and a Filipina hotel worker were among the dead.
      Police said they also found a video made by two of the attackers in a home in Kabul, where they arrested two men. A fourth man — believed to have driven the attackers to the hotel — was arrested in eastern Afghanistan while trying to flee to Pakistan.
    The hotel attack was a grim start to 2008 after a record year of violence in 2007, indicating militants may be refining their strategy to undermine the government of President Hamid Karzai and the Western-backed campaign to stabilize Afghanistan.
    Amrullah Saleh, the head of Afghanistan’s intelligence service, said three militants stormed the hotel. A guard shot and killed one attacker at the gate to the hotel’s parking lot, which triggered his suicide vest.
    A second attacker blew himself up near the entrance to the hotel’s lobby, and the third attacker made it inside the hotel and shot his way through the lobby and toward the gym, Saleh said. A man suspected of being the third attacker was arrested after the assault Monday. He had been wearing a police uniform during the attack.
    The three militants stormed the popular luxury hotel just after 6 p.m. More than 30 U.S. soldiers in a half-dozen Humvees rushed to the hotel, and security personnel from the nearby U.S. Embassy ran to the scene.
    Blood covered the lobby floor as gunfire rang out, witnesses said.
    Saleh said the attack was masterminded by Mullah Abdullah, a close ally of Siraj Haqqani, a well-known militant leader thought to be based in Miran Shah, the main town in Pakistan’s lawless tribal region of North Waziristan. The U.S. military has a $200,000 bounty out on Haqqani.
    Police arrested a man named Humayun, allegedly a key link to Abdullah, in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday as he was trying to flee to Pakistan, Saleh said, accusing him of supplying the assailants with weapons, explosives and suicide vests and driving them to the hotel.
    Saleh showed a picture taken from the hotel’s security cameras showing a gunman in a police uniform inside the hotel’s lobby, apparently the third attacker. He was apprehended 15 to 20 minutes after the attack began, he said.
    ‘‘The third person, after killing a number of the guests, maybe he changed his mind for some reason, he didn’t detonate himself,’’ Saleh said. ‘‘He changed his clothes and later when security forces searched the premises, he was arrested.’’
    Authorities raided a house in Kabul early Tuesday where the alleged attackers had spent the night before the attack. Police found a video showing two of the assailants, identified as Farouq and Salahuddin, saying they were ready to die. The owner of the house and his brother were arrested.
    ‘‘I commit this suicide attack for Allah,’’ the video showed the attacker named Farouq saying. He was believed to have blown himself up during the attack.
    There was confusion over the death toll. Saleh said three Americans and a French woman were among those killed, but the U.S. Embassy said only one American citizen died. The French embassy was not aware of any French casualties.
    The Serena spokesman said three hotel employees and two guards were killed during the attack. Officials have said an American citizen and a Norwegian reporter also died, and the Philippines Foreign Affairs Department said a Filipina spa supervisor wounded in the attack died on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to eight.
    The Taliban has targeted aid workers and civilian contractors with kidnappings and killings, but this was the most daring and sophisticated attack yet on a prominent symbol of the foreign presence.
    The Taliban have typically focused attacks on Western and Afghan officials or security personnel, not Western civilians.
    Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, who was in the hotel during the attack but was not injured, met Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday, but canceled the rest of his trip, which had been scheduled to last through Thursday.
    Immediately after Monday’s attack. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Stoere had been the target. But officials and experts in Norway said they had no information to that effect.
    ‘‘I don’t have any indication that this attack was specifically targeted at Norway, but we must assume that it was aimed at the international presence in Afghanistan,’’ Stoere said.
    Associated Press reporters Amir Shah and Fisnik Abrashi and Doug Mellgren in Oslo, Norway contributed to this report.

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