The four gunmen were swift as they entered the luxury hotel in Kabul, although it took them a few minutes to find the restaurant that was their target, Afghan officials said Friday as they pieced together details of the brazen attack that killed nine people, including four foreigners and two children who were shot in the head.
The Afghan capital has been hit by several attacks, but authorities appeared stunned that the militants had managed to get through the tight security at the Serena hotel - considered one of the safest places to stay in Kabul.
The shooting spree was the latest in a series of high-profile attacks as the Taliban and allied militants step up a campaign of violence in the weeks leading to April 5 national elections.
Among the victims was an Afghan journalist, who was killed along his wife and two children, French news agency Agence France Presse confirmed. It said the family's youngest son was undergoing emergency treatment after being badly wounded in the attack.
Sardar Ahmad, 40, also ran the Kabul Pressistan media company and joined AFP in 2003 to become the agency's senior reporter in Kabul. He covered all aspects of life, war and politics in his native Afghanistan, according to a statement tweeted by the news agency.
The attack in Kabul came on the heels of an uptick in bombings and shootings against foreigners in the Afghan capital, something that had been relatively rare. Earlier this month, a Swedish journalist was shot on the street execution-style and a Lebanese restaurant popular with foreigners was attacked by a suicide bomber and gunmen in January.
The attacks show the Taliban are following through on their threat to use violence to disrupt next month's elections. The presidential vote will be the first democratic transfer of power since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Islamic militant movement. President Hamid Karzai is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the Kabul attack, saying it shows that “our people, if they decide to attack any place, they can do it.”