Kabul: At least 12 people have been killed and a number of others are taken hostage in a Taliban militants’ attack on a hotel in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
The militants were armed with RPGs and heavy machineguns when they attacked the hotel at a popular Kabul recreation area near the Qargha Lake.
The exact number of casualties is not immediately known but witnesses say six civilians and six policemen have lost their lives so far.
Mohammad Zahir, the head of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Kabul police, said the assault began around 11:30 pm (1900 GMT) Thursday, when the armed assailants stormed a gathering at the Spozhmai Hotel.
Police sources said two of the six assailants detonated their explosive vests as other militants took most of the guests hostage.
Reports said explosions and automatic gunfire as well as two US-led NATO helicopters overhead are heard in the area.
According to police, Afghan forces launched an operation to end the militant strike around 5:30 am (0100 GMT).
The security forces have rescued up to 20 hostages including women and children. But a number of foreign nationals and Afghan civilians are still trapped in the hotel.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed in a text message that the militants had stormed two hotels used by foreigners killing 25 of them as well as 14 “high-profile” Afghans.
However the reports said that only one hotel was attacked.
The assault comes two days after 21 people were killed in a bomb blast after an assailant riding a motorbike attacked a joint Afghan-NATO convey passing through Afghanistan’s eastern city of Khost.
Another bomb explosion on Wednesday left at least eight Afghan women and children dead in the Logar Province.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday that militant attacks on the security forces have been increased in the war-torn country in the recent months.