Officials said there were as many as four attackers and at least two of them have been killed. The Intercontinental Hotel is one of two main luxury hotels in Kabul and is used for events including conferences attended by government officials.

Smoke rises from the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul June 29, 2011.
Smoke rises from the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul June 29, 2011. ( Reuters Archive )

Gunmen attacked Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel on Saturday, seizing hostages and exchanging gunfire with security forces as the building in the Afghan capital caught fire and residents and staff fled.

Hotel manager Ahmad Haris Nayab, who escaped unhurt, said the attackers had got into the main part of the hotel through a kitchen and people tried to get out amid bursts of gunfire.

Many considered dead

Several people had been killed and at least six wounded in the raid, which came days after a US embassy warning of possible attacks on hotels in Kabul, Nasrat Rahimi, an interior ministry spokesman, said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest in a long series of attacks which underlined the city's precarious situation and the ability of militants to strike blows to undermine confidence in the Western-backed government.

TRT World's BiIal Sarwary reports from Kabul.

Officials said there were as many as four attackers and at least two of them had been killed as Afghan Special Forces cleared the first floor and moved to the second, battling the raiders, who appeared to have a large supply of hand grenades.

According to one witness, who did not want to be named, the attackers took some hotel staff and guests hostage.

The Intercontinental Hotel, located on a hilltop and heavily protected like most public buildings in Kabul, was previously attacked by Taliban militants in 2011.

Security forces stand guard near the Intercontinental Hotel after a deadly attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018.
Security forces stand guard near the Intercontinental Hotel after a deadly attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. ( AP )

US Warning

Many details of the incident were still unclear, but Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said a private company had taken over security about three weeks ago.

The US embassy in Kabul had issued a warning to US citizens on Thursday, saying "We are aware of reports that extremist groups may be planning an attack against hotels in Kabul".

The State Department said it was monitoring the situation and was in contact with Afghan authorities to determine whether any US citizens had been affected.

After repeated attacks in Kabul, notably an incident last May in which a truck bomber killed at least 150 people outside the German embassy, security has been further tightened.

While it shares the same name, the hotel in Kabul is not part of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which issued a statement in 2011 saying that "the hotel Inter-continental in Kabul is not part of IHG and has not been since 1980".

Source: Reuters