Gunmen storm Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul


Afghan special forces are fighting gunmen who have attacked a major hotel in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.

Four attackers armed with automatic weapons stormed Inter-Continental Hotel on Saturday, security sources told Al Jazeera.

It is believed that suicide bombers are among them.

There were reports that a number of people were being held hostage, while a witness said that part of the building, one of the largest luxury hotels in Kabul, was on fire. Explosions were also heard in the area.

A government spokesman said special forces were on the scene battling the attackers, killing at least one of them.

“Security forces are going floor-to-floor in that hotel, trying to flush out those attackers,” Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, said.

Afghan security forces keep watch near the site of the attack [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

Speaking to Al Jazeera shortly after the attack had started, a person inside Inter-Continental described a “very dire situation”.

“I spoke with somebody inside the hotel … [who] said attackers were inside the hotel and set fire to a number of floors,” said Glasse.

“We know that there were guests inside the hotel at the time of the attack and that a wedding was also going. The interior ministry said that those in the wedding party have been evacuated, as have some guests and staff,” our correspondent added.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Previously attacked

The incident came days after US Embassy in Kabul issued a warning that said armed groups may be planning attacks against hotels in the city.

“Kabul has been on high alert for the last few days as prominent delegations have come through the city,” said Glasse, calling the attack is a “blow” to security forces.

The Inter-Continental, situated on a hill overlooking Kabul, is usually heavily guarded because of its popularity with government officials and foreigners living the Afghan capital.

This was the second time that the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul came under attack.

In 2011, an overnight assault by Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers on the hotel ended with the killing of the attackers by security forces and the deaths of at least 10 civilians.

A 2011 image showing smoke and flames rising from hotel after coming under attack [Reuters]

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

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