Teenage gunmen waited three hours before attack on Kabul hotel: sources

WATCH ABOVE: (Mar. 21, 2014) Two Canadians are among nine people who died in a Taliban attack on a luxury hotel in Kabul. As Jacques Bourbeau reports, it looks like an ominous sign of things to come in Afghanistan.

OTTAWA – Disturbing details are emerging about a horrific attack at a high-end hotel in Afghanistan’s capital that killed nine people, including two Canadian women.

Global News has learned teenage gunmen gained access to the tightly-secured Serena Hotel in Kabul by telling security they wanted to enjoy Nowruz, the Persian New Year celebrated in Afghanistan.

Sources say the gunmen waited three hours until the restaurant was full before attacking foreigners at around 9:45 p.m. local time.

One of the victims was Roshan Thomas from Vancouver, B.C. Her identity was first announced on 苏州纹眉学校 by British Columbia Liberal Senator Mobina Jaffer.

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READ MORE: Vancouver resident killed in Taliban attack in Afghanistan

Thomas’ colleagues, who were also at the hotel, were offered refuge and assistance at the Canadian embassy, located 3.2 kilometres from the hotel.

The second Canadian victim is Zeenab Kassam, a nurse from Calgary. Her family said she was volunteering as an English teacher in Afghanistan and had been in the country for a year and a half.

Kassam’s brother told Global News in Calgary that Kassam and Thomas were out for dinner at the hotel celebrating the vernal equinox. He said he hoped someone held her hand as she died, and that she didn’t suffer.

WATCH: Video of Roshan Thomas provided by her family.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called the attack “brazen and cowardly.”

Baird described the two Canadian victims as “development workers,” but said they didn’t work directly for the federal government.

“A tragedy for the families,” Baird told reporters Friday as he boarded a plane in Ottawa to accompany Prime Minister Stephen Harper on a trip to Ukraine and a nuclear security conference in the Netherlands.

“Many of these people dedicated their lives to helping everyday Afghans build a better country for themselves, including education, and enhancing the role of women and girls in Afghan society. For this selfless work to be met with violence, especially on the occasion of Nowruz, just further proves the depravity of the Taliban and those who support them,” said Baird.

WATCH: Baird calls attack on Kabul hotel “brazen and cowardly”

A statement from Foreign Affairs issued Friday said only that Canadian diplomats in Kabul are working with authorities to gather additional information. A spokesman for Baird tweeted that all Canadian staff at the embassy in Kabul are safe and accounted for.

Officials say a total of four foreigners were among the nine people who died in the attack, including two children who were shot in the head.

READ MORE: Three gunmen killed after attack on Kabul luxury hotel

The Afghan capital has been hit by several attacks, but authorities appeared stunned 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 rampage 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.

It’s the second time this year that Canadians have died in Kabul.

In January two Canadian accountants died in a Taliban suicide attack in Afghanistan.

Martin Glazer, of Gatineau, Que., and Peter McSheffrey, of Ottawa were among 21 people killed when a suicide bomber and two gunmen attacked a popular restaurant in the Afghan capital.

The two were in Afghanistan doing an audit for the Canadian International Development Agency.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the Calgary victim’s first name to Zeenab Kassam. Global News regrets the error.

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