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Smoke rises from the Intercontinental Hotel during an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan January 21, 2018. © 2018 Reuters

This weekend’s attack on the Intercontinental Hotel was just the latest in a long string of incidents targeting civilians in Afghanistan. Those who ordered or carried out this serious violation of the laws of war are responsible for war crimes.

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the hours-long attack on the hotel, during which gunmen killed at least seven Afghans and 11 foreign nationals, most of them shot dead in their rooms or the hotel dining room. The attackers, who reportedly entered through the kitchen, worked their way through the hotel floors, blowing open guests’ rooms and shooting whoever was inside, or detonating grenades. Some people were injured or killed jumping out of windows while trying to escape. The death toll may rise further as some hotel guests are reportedly still missing, and fire has destroyed part of the hotel.

Attacks harming civilians in Afghanistan have increased sharply in the past year. The most recent report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan notes that in the first half of 2017, more civilian deaths and injury from suicide and complex attacks were documented than in any previous period.

The Intercontinental Hotel attack is a grim and unnecessary reminder of the increasingly routine carnage deliberately inflicted by combatants against civilians in flagrant violation of international law.

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