Gunmen killed in Kabul hotel shootout

Afghan soldiers stand at the site of a suicide car bomb attack which killed at least 11 people,...
Afghan soldiers stand at the site of a suicide car bomb attack which killed at least 11 people, in Jalalabad province. REUTERS/Parwiz
Taliban gunmen attacked a luxury hotel in the centre of the Afghan capital Kabul, police say, and four of the assailants were killed in a shootout with the Afghan security forces.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told Reuters that all of the gunmen were dead and security forces were in control of the hotel. He said he was not aware of any fatalities among the staff or guests, but checks were ongoing and Afghan special forces were on the scene.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack and said the attackers had fired at foreign and Afghan guests celebrating the Afghan new year.

"Suicide bombers have entered the Serena Hotel, heavy battle is underway, enemies suffered heavy casualties," he said in a text message.

His information could not be immediately verified and no one Reuters spoke to reported hearing any explosions.

Security sources told Reuters that gunmen armed with pistols entered the Serena hotel by a back door. Two people had been wounded, they said. There were no details on the nationality of those hurt.

One person who was taken to safety along with other guests said that the shooting appeared to begin in the hotel restaurant.

The hotel was attacked in 2008 by a suicide bomber and six people were killed.

Since then, it has beefed up its protection and is considered the safest place to stay in Kabul, protected by multiple layers of security including metal detectors and armed guards. It is home to many United Nations staff and foreign delegations.

Earlier in the day, the Taliban attacked a police station in the southern city of Jalalabad with multiple suicide bombers and gunmen. At least 11 people were killed.

The Taliban have vowed to kill anyone associated with next month's presidential elections. The April 5 polls should mark the first time one elected government hands power to another in the history of Afghanistan.


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