Nazir Amini, an Afghan who has lived in Germany for many years and was visiting, said that he saw a man enter the hotel wearing a police uniform, but that instead of the standard police cap, he wore the white hat that is often favored by religious Afghans.

“I said, ‘Are you a policeman or are you a bomber?’ ” Mr. Amini said. “ ‘What kind of stupid police are you?’ ”

“The man did not reply, even though I used some curse words and I thought maybe he does not understand the language. While I was talking to this guy, three police said, ‘Come here, come here, don’t talk to him, don’t stand near him, he’s the bomber.’

“I said, ‘Then, kill him, he’s a bomber.’ ”

Mr. Amini said the police repeatedly urged him to move away from the man. “When I saw this I thought, this country is totally hopeless, with these kind of coward police you cannot protect your country,” he said. “How can you be ready for the transition?”

From The New York Times report on yesterday’s brutal terrorist attack on the hilltop Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. Photograph by Massoud Hossaini/Agence France-Presse - Getty Images