22 Nov 2009

Rocket attack targets Afghan capital

6:33 am on 22 November 2009

A rocket attack near the luxury Serena Hotel in Kabul has wounded four people, including at least one member of the Afghan security forces.

One rocket hit the wall of the five-star hotel in downtown Kabul at 6.15pm on Saturday Ahmad Farid Raaid, a spokesman for Afghanistan's health ministry, told AFP.

A spokesman for the interior ministry said the rocket also hit the front of Rabia Balkhi hospital.

The five-star Serena Hotel, owned by the Aga Khan, was attacked in January 2008 by a commander of the Taliban, with the deaths of eight people.

The hotel is the choice for visiting VIPs and has been heavily fortified since that attack.

It is occasionally shelled, most recently on 28 October, the same day that a United Nations guesthouse came under Taliban attack with the deaths of up to five UN staff and two Afghans. That attack led the UN to withdraw hundreds of international employees from Kabul.

Saturday's attack comes two days after President Hamid Karzai was sworn in for a second five-year term, after a controversial election on 20 August that was marred by fraud.

Mr Karzai has pledged to call an inclusive meeting of political, community and religious leaders from across the country, to bring peace to the war-torn country, and believes Afghan security forces will be able to take responsibility for security within five years.

At present only Kabul is controlled and secured by Afghans, while more than 100,000 troops from the United States and NATO countries are fighting the Taliban's intensifying insurgency.

Police earlier reported that Afghan and foreign troops killed 23 Taliban militants in separate operations on Friday in clashes in southern and eastern Afghanistan.