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Kabul hotel attack: Indian survivor recalls night of horror

Shemin Joy, DH News Service, New Delhi, Jan 22 2018, 16:23 IST

For more than 12 hours Akash Raj was holed up inside Room No 420 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul.

When he felt someone was trying to break in, he "really thought the bad guys are in" but thankfully that was not the case.

Raj flew into Kabul from Dubai on Saturday afternoon to take up his assignment with the Afghan-based Kam Air.

He had no inkling about what lay in store for him over the next few hours.

He was the lone Indian in the hotel when terrorists stormed in firing indiscriminately and lobbed grenades at around 8. 30 pm (local time).

For the next 11-12 hours, he stared at inevitable death.

Raj, who hails from Kochi and is presently the chief commercial officer of Kam Air, moved to Kabul on Saturday after the airline closed its Dubai office where he was working for the past two-and-half years.

"Reliving those moments are terrible. Death was near. I heard that 10 of my colleagues lost life in the attack. It was really traumatic," Raj told DH over the phone from Dubai, where he returned on Sunday after he was rescued by Afghan Special Forces.

There was no electricity and Raj was freezing in the sub-zero temperature.

"Luckily I had a power bank which kept my phone running. It allowed me to be in touch with cousins and family. They gave me the strength to hold it together. Otherwise, I would have died from anxiety and trauma," he said.

It all started, soon after one of his colleagues left his room.

"I heard some explosion-like sound. The rooms are sound-proof and I couldn't make out what was happening. Then I started getting messages asking me to be careful," he recalled.

"Initially I did not take it seriously. But then it got louder and louder. Later I heard that the terrorists opened doors and threw grenades inside. Immediately, I blocked my doors with whatever I had," Raj said.

By then the terrorists had reached the first floor and as they went on with indiscriminate firing, Special Forces scrambled to take on them.

The militants managed to get up to the third floor but the forces managed to secure the fourth floor and prevent the terrorist's further movement.

How the forces found him:

Raj had a spine-chilling moment to narrate when he first heard some sounds of someone using an axe to break the door open.

"I really thought the bad guys are here. I was sitting on the bed preparing to face whatever it is. Then I saw men in uniform and they asked me to get ready. They took me downstairs and handed over to the NATO forces, who took me to the UN camp," he says.

He had to wait for six more hours in the camp.

Later, his company sent him a car and took him to the airport from where he traveled to Dubai and was reunited with his family.

Raj said his family wants him to quit but he has not yet decided. "Let me give myself a few days," he said.

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