China 'shocked' at Kabul hotel attack that injured its five citizens

Fire at hotel in Shahr-e-Naw, Kabul

By Mohammad Yunus Yawar

KABUL (Reuters) -China on Tuesday expressed "shock" at the gun and bomb attack at a hotel in downtown Kabul in which five of its citizens were badly wounded and once again asked its nationals to leave Afghanistan.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for Monday's attack, the first on Chinese interests in the country since the Taliban took power last year.

"The nature of this terrorist attack was abominable, the Chinese side is deeply shocked," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin while calling for an investigation into the incident.

The Taliban-run administration said on Monday that three assailants were killed by the security forces.

More than 30 Chinese citizens were in the hotel at the time of the attack, Yu Ming Hui, the head of the China Town business complex in Kabul and a leading Chinese businessman in Afghanistan, told Reuters.

"Five of them are in the ICU in Emergency Hospital, around 13 to 14 are superficially wounded," he said, adding that the rest had left the hotel to stay elsewhere.

A security guard posted outside the hotel told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the site was sealed off. "The investigation is still going on, no one is allowed to go inside," he said.

An eyewitness at a restaurant near the hotel said there had been some raids and arrests in the area about an hour before the first explosion was heard.

The guard, who was present in the area when the first blast happened, said initial details showed the assailants managed to get explosives inside the hotel by booking a room prior to the attack.

A spokesperson for the Taliban-run administration did not reply to request for comment on how the attack took place.

The Islamic State in its claim had also mentioned about previously-planted explosives and identified two attackers. The militant group said it had killed or wounded 30 security force members and Chinese citizens.

Emergency Hospital, located near the hotel, said it had received three dead bodies and 18 injured, but declined to identify casualties for privacy reasons.

The Taliban-run administration has struggled to stabilise the security situation even after the departure of U.S.-led foreign forces last year ended two decades of war in Afghanistan.

Islamic State radicals have launched multiple attacks in Kabul, including on the Russian and Pakistani embassies in recent months.

(Writing by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Arun Koyyur)