26 die as Afghan forces fight Taliban at hotel near Kabul

From an omelette, pasta to a vegetable stir fry, black pepper can enhance the taste factor.

Black pepper has more healthy properties than most people know about. Black pepper is a spice that has the potential to make food more beneficial when used in various recipes and as a table spice. In Kerala, many start their day with a cup of black coffee with a pinch of black pepper powder. The aroma of freshly ground black pepper is difficult to ignore.

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Research studies have shown that black pepper has quite a handful of healthy properties.

It has the ability to enhance the function of the digestive tract. Black pepper is a great way to combat this. More than just a spice, it has been shown to improve digestion and stimulate the secretion from the taste buds. This taste bud stimulation tells the stomach that it’s supposed to increase its own digestive juices, namely hydrochloric acid. This, in turn breaks down protein in the stomach, improving the process of digestion. Black pepper is known to have a great amount of antioxidant properties. It also has benefits against bacterial growth, particularly in the intestinal tract.

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Police officials described the sprawling resort at Qargha lake and the Spozhmai hotel, where the drama unfolded, as a daunting place to mount a rescue operation because it is wooded and easy for attackers to hide. In addition to the main hotel, there is at least one other hotel and numerous small cottages.

“The Afghan security forces managed to evacuate 250 to 300 customers at the hotel in the initial hours of the attack and in the morning we resumed our operation and so far we’ve managed to rescue 40 more hostages including women and children,” said General Ayoub Salangi, the Kabul police chief.

“We also rescued four men who were stuck in the water,” he said, referring to guests at the hotel who in the initial moments of the attack jumped into the lake. Because they could not swim, they had to cling to the stone sea wall, immersed in the chilly mountain waters until they were fished out by police in the morning.

This is not the first time the Taliban have attacked civilians. They stormed a branch of Kabul Bank in Jalalabad in early 2011, executing customers, and nearly a year ago they stormed the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, killing at least eight people.
At least two of the attackers appear to have died when they detonated suicide vests they were wearing.

Beginning at dawn there was gunfire, and Afghan police officers were fighting with the attackers but trying to stage their counterattack, said Gen. Mohammed Zahir, head of the Kabul Criminal Investigation Division.

“The Spozhmai Hotel is not a military facility, it’s a civilian hotel,” General Zahir said. “We still do not know why the Taliban targeted the Spozhmai Hotel.”

General Zahir said that the attack began at 11:30 p.m. when the Taliban entered the hotel and “started shooting indiscriminately and injured a lot of civilians who were having a late dinner.”

“Some of the civilians managed to escape and some were taken hostage,” he said. By early morning, American helicopters were shooting flares and the area was swarming with Afghan National Police and army troops. More NATO forces were on the way, according to Afghan officials at the scene, and NATO officials confirmed that it was a joint operation.

The picturesque hotel is the centerpiece of the resort, which was once the property of Afghanistan’s royal family and is now owned by the government. About 10 miles from the capital, it is one of the few places in Kabul Province where people can go for a break from the crowded city streets. There are boats for rent and cottages for families, and the resort is popular with families on the weekly Friday holiday.

The lake is also a favorite spot for young Kabul residents who buy illegal alcohol and drink it in the picnic areas.
In a statement on their Web site on Friday, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which they said was carried out because the resort area included “prime places in Kabul for prostitution and parties.”

The Taliban said the hotels in the area were “usually used for immoral and unethical purposes both for the foreigners and their puppet colleagues.”

A waiter at the hotel, Mohammed Wais, 21, said the attack began at 11 p.m. as he was in the kitchen slicing onions. “Suddenly we heard shooting outside the hotel, we heard shouting and yelling and then somebody said, ‘They shot the guards, they shot the guards,’ “he said.

He and several other workers escaped, Mr. Wais said, but he knew of at least 20 other workers who were trapped. He said they had told him by cellphone there were about 15 attackers. At 3 a.m. Friday, he said, “their phones were turned off.”

“There are lots of trees; it’s like a jungle, which makes it difficult for us to spot the attackers,” said a security official, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media. “There are a lot of people in the hotel who might have been trapped. We believe the attackers are still able to resist for sometime at least.”

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