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At least 5 killed as gunmen attack landmark hotel in Afghan capital

At least 5 killed as gunmen attack landmark hotel in Afghan capital
Afghan security forces take up positions near Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel, where a group of armed men staged an attack on Saturday. (Jawad Jalali / EPA/Shutterstock)

Afghan commandos battled Sunday to dislodge armed assailants who raided a landmark hotel in Kabul, sparking gunfire and explosions that left at least five people dead, officials said.

Guests at the Intercontinental Hotel barricaded themselves inside rooms and on balconies as security forces went from floor to floor of the six-story building searching for the attackers.

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More than 12 hours after the attack began, Afghan officials said they had ended the siege and three assailants were dead.

The attack left smoke billowing from several rooms in the hilltop building, one of the most recognizable landmarks in the Afghan capital.

Jamaluddin Daleri, a 51-year-old university lecturer, said his brother was attending a government workshop and told him by phone that he locked himself on a balcony on the second floor after the gunmen opened fire.

“He’ll jump off the balcony if he has to,” Daleri said. “He said that he got a call from security forces to come into the hallway, but can’t trust anyone. A room on the upper floor and another beside his room caught fire.”

The Afghan Interior Ministry said five people were killed and six wounded. Afghan security forces rescued 126 people from the hotel, including 41 foreign nationals, said Najib Danish, Interior Ministry spokesman.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

The hotel used to be part of the InterContinental Hotels Group but is now owned by the Afghan government and frequently hosts official meetings and conferences.

Smokes rises from the Intercontinental Hotel early Sunday morning in Kabul, Afghanistan. Gunman stormed the hotel on Saturday evening, triggering a shootout with security forces.
Smokes rises from the Intercontinental Hotel early Sunday morning in Kabul, Afghanistan. Gunman stormed the hotel on Saturday evening, triggering a shootout with security forces. (Rahmat Gul / Associated Press)

Police officials said the armed assailants entered the hotel Saturday evening, when it was filled with more than 100 government employees attending a three-day information technology workshop that was due to begin Sunday.

The hotel — which had been renovated after suffering extensive damage during the Afghan civil war in the 1990s — was the site of a previous attack in 2011. That year, Taliban insurgents stormed the building, killed six people and set off an hours-long battle with Afghan and international security forces.

After that attack, most foreigners stopped going to the hotel, although it remains a popular destination for government officials and well-off Afghan families.

Saturday’s raid was the latest in a series of deadly attacks targeting civilians in Kabul. Last month, Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack against a Shiite Muslim cultural center in the capital that left at least 41 dead.

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