Who owns Baron Hotel in Kabul? Here's why it was targeted in the suicide bombing
Bombing outside the Baron Hotel in Kabul killed at least 60 people. The hotel is owned by Pakistani trader Mumtaz Muslim
One of the two devastating explosions near Kabul's airport occurred near a hotel that had been used to process Afghans fleeing the Taliban's repressive reign, news outlets reported on Thursday, August 26. According to the Pentagon, the explosion happened less than a mile from the airport, at or near the 160-room Baron Hotel.
An affiliate of Islamic terror group ISIS has officially claimed responsibility for the suicide bombings at Kabul airport on Thursday, August 26, that killed at least 60 people and 13 US troops. At least 140 people are reported to have been injured in the blasts which took place outside the perimeter of Hamid Karzai International Airport at an entrance known as Abbey Gate.
As the chaotic evacuation of Afghanistan continues, President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday, Aug 24 that he planned to have all American citizens evacuated from Afghanistan by August 31, the deadline set by the Taliban. However,on August 23, chair of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff predicted that US troops would need to stay back longer, as evacuations are getting increasingly difficult.
Before the first explosion outside the airport's Abbey Gate on Thursday, Aug 26, followed by the second attack at the hotel, the US and other allied nations encouraged Afghans to leave the area due to a threat from ISIS fighters, the New York Post reported.
The 160-room hotel is located near Camp Sullivan, less than a mile from the airport. According to the hotel's website, "safe, secure housing, lodging and or accommodation in Kabul, Afghanistan" is provided. The hotel's security was highlighted in the description, as it is located in a "security buffer zone" due to its proximity to the airport and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Fox News reported.
Wounded women arrive at a hospital for treatment following two blasts in Kabul, one of which occurred at or near the Baron Hotel and the other at the Abbey Gate outside Hamid Karzai International Airport.— ABC News (@ABC) August 26, 2021
Live updates: https://t.co/dlijzXhG9j pic.twitter.com/c7JZhjYkT6
Who owns the Baron Hotel?
The Baron in Kabul is part of a hotel chain called the Baron Hotels. The owner and president of the hotel chain is Mumtaz Muslim, a Pakistani trader who built the first five-star hotel in Karbala, Iraq according to this YouTube video. Speaking to ABC News about the blast in Kabul, Muslim said: "The situation inside the hotel is all right. We are all safe there. No casualties no injuries. But what happened outside the hotel was devastating," he said. "It was very, very bad." He confirmed that nobody inside the hotel was injured.
Of his association with the hotel, Muslim said he has been there since 2009. "We started with 160 rooms and we are now at 480 rooms. Business has been very good," he said, adding that he has to "watch, wait and see" about how they will take on the business going forward, with the new Taliban regime. Muslim took to Twitter to say: "As the owner of The Baron Hotel Kabul, I confirm there are no casualties or damage to the property inside. The explosion was outside the hotel & I regret the loss of innocent lives #Kabul #kabulairport #explosion". In another tweet he wrote: "Alhamdolillah! Everybody is safe and there is no damage to the property".
As the owner of The Baron Hotel Kabul, I confirm there are no casualties or damage to the property inside. The explosion was outside the hotel & I regret the loss of innocent lives #Kabul #kabulairport #explosion @cnni @SkyNews @BBCBreaking @ramsaysky— Mumtaz Muslim (@MumtazMuslim) August 26, 2021
Alhamdolillah! Everybody is safe and there is no damage to the property https://t.co/ZzZCyjZ5PF— Mumtaz Muslim (@MumtazMuslim) August 26, 2021
Why was Baron Hotel a target for the bombings?
As the Taliban take control of Afghanistan, the hotel has functioned as a processing hub for Afghans attempting to exit the country, Fox News reported. In the past, the hotel acted as a rescue and evacuation center for American citizens. According to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, up to 1,500 Americans may still remain in the nation. The attack could have been aimed against the US citizens.
The Baron Hotel has played an important role in the evacuation of Britons, Americans, and Afghan residents who have worked for British organizations. The hotel has been used by British diplomats to process hundreds of visa applications every hour, according to the Guardian, as hordes of people wanting to flee gathered outside the entrance.
According to the hotel's website, the compound is "one of Kabul's most prestigious secured lodging projects."
A 13-foot-high surrounding wall and five guard towers surround the hotel, which is guarded by a private security firm from the United States. The explosion on Thursday, Aug 26, was yet another setback in the frantic evacuation efforts that began the day before Taliban militants conquered Kabul on Aug 15.