Kabul: Gunmen attack Intercontinental Hotel

Afghan security officer trains a laser sight on a target off-camera, while a man in civilian clothing can be seen talking on the phone nearby.Image copyright

Image caption

Afghan security forces have taken up positions around the hotel

At least four gunmen have launched an attack on Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel, Afghan officials say.

Special forces have killed two of the attackers, interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told the BBC.

An official at the Afghan spy agency told AFP that the gunmen were “shooting at guests”.

The attack began at about 21:00 local time (16:30 GMT), officials said. There were no immediate details of casualties.

Security forces had cleared the first floor of the hotel but the attackers were still on the floors above, Mr Rahimi said.

The hotel guests included foreigners, and a fire has also broken out on the third floor where the kitchen is located, he added.

Some reports said the hotel had been hosting an IT conference attended by provincial officials at the time.

The attack comes just days after the US embassy in Kabul issued a warning about hotels in the city.

“We are aware of reports that extremist groups may be planning an attack against hotels in Kabul,” the embassy wrote in a public security alert published Thursday, though it highlighted another hotel near the international airport as a possible target.

“These groups may also be targeting public gatherings/demonstrations, government facilities, transportation, markets, and places where foreigners are known to congregate.”

A guest at the hotel told AFP that people were hiding in their rooms.

“I don’t know if the attackers are inside the hotel but I can hear gunfire from somewhere near the first floor,” the guest said.

“We are hiding in our rooms. I beg the security forces to rescue us as soon as possible before they reach and kill us.”

The Intercontinental is a state-owned hotel which often hosts weddings, conferences and political gatherings.

It was attacked by the Taliban in 2011. Twenty-one people were killed including nine attackers.

Security has been tightened in Kabul since last May, when a huge truck bomb killed at least 150 people.

However, there have been several attacks in recent months. They include a bomb at a Shia cultural centre last month that killed more than 40 people.

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