30 Jun 2011

NZ soldiers wounded after attack on Kabul hotel

6:29 am on 30 June 2011

Two New Zealand soldiers have been wounded in Afghanistan, in an attack that left at least 10 civilians and two police dead at a top international hotel in.

The siege ended with helicopters firing on and killing some of the insurgents on the roof.

A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry says all nine militants involved in the attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul are dead.

Officials say eight civilians and two police officers were killed in the five hours of violence on Tuesday. However, it's thought that all guests are safe.

The New Zealand Defence Force says at the time of the attack, Afghan Police - supported by New Zealand special forces - fought a number of the attackers.

During the battle, two members of the New Zealand forces received moderate injuries. Their families have been told.

Earlier today, the Prime Minister John Key - who is currently in India - said to the best of his knowledge members of New Zealand's SAS were not involved.

But speaking from Washington DC, the Defence Minister Wayne Mapp, said he was briefed by telephone as events were unfolding, as were the acting Prime Minister, Bill English and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully.

Dr Mapp says he has been provided with very few details.

Key says defence staff need to be careful

Mr Key says New Zealand defence staff in Afghanistan's capital will need to be vigilant after the attack.

He says it is the first terrorist attack in Kabul for some time and means New Zealand forces in Afghanistan will need to be even more careful.

There are 38 SAS soldiers and support staff based in Kabul.

In February, Private Kirifi Mila was killed and two other soldiers injured in a vehicle accident in Afghanistan's Bamyan province.

Lieutenant Timothy O'Donnell became the first New Zealand Defence Force soldier to die while serving in Afghanistan, when he was killed in a roadside bombing last year.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Afghan officials told the BBC that one suicide bomber blew himself up at the front of the hotel and another on the second floor.

Witnesses said panic broke out as guests fled for safety. Afghan troops and police sealed off the hotel and cut the power, using flares to light the area.

Officials say a meeting of provincial governors taking place at the hotel might have been the reason for the attack.

The Intercontinental is one of Kabul's best-known hotels, situated on a hill in the west of the city and was established in 1969.