Taliban suicide attackers hit Kabul hotel, killing 7

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan police say seven people have been killed in a more than four-hour standoff between militants and police at a hotel in the Afghan capital.

Deputy police chief in Kabul Daoud Amin said eight other people — two policemen and six civilians — were wounded in the attack, which ended early today when NATO helicopters fired rockets at gunmen on the rooftop of the besieged hotel and Afghan security forces stormed the top of the building.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi says six suicide bombers attacked the Inter-Continental hotel, which is frequented by Afghan officials and foreign visitors. He says two were killed by hotel guards and four others either blew themselves up or were killed in the airstrike or by Afghan troops.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Afghan forces were reported to be moving floor by floor through the 20-story hotel, and explosions could still be heard by onlookers outside the hotel. The hotel itself was burning fiercely.

It was unknown whether any of the hotel's guests had been killed or wounded in the mayhem and how many Americans might have been staying at the hotel.

The rare nighttime assault was likely to increase anxiety in the Afghan capital over the ability of the Afghan police and army to take control of security responsibilities, a transition that is scheduled to occur next month.

The Taliban hadn't launched an attack on a major hotel in the capital in more than a year, but it has executed a string of brazen assaults in the capital that have shaken Afghan confidence in the security forces.

The Taliban assailants at the Intercontinental were wearing military uniforms when they stormed into the hotel through a rear door at about 10 p.m., Mohammed Zahir, the director of criminal investigations for the Kabul police department, said. At that hour, the hotel was almost certainly filled with milling guests and diners.