30 killed in Kabul hotel as guests flee terrorist siege

People flee the scene of the attack

Image People flee the scene of the attack

Witnesses said the assailants shot at diners in the hotel restaurant and went floor to floor searching for more victims as panicked guests barricaded themselves in rooms and others escaped by leaping from balconies.

Special forces were lowered by helicopters during the night onto the roof of the landmark 1960s building, with Afghan security forces killing four attackers in the hours-long assault, the interior ministry said.

Earlier in the day, the Ministry of Interior confirmed that at least five people, including the head of Farah's telecommunication department, Jamaluddin Padshahkhil, and one foreigner, were killed and six wounded in the siege.

The siege ended yesterday when the last attacker was killed, more than 12 hours after the attack began.

The high-profile assault on the Intercontinental Hotel, a heavily guarded hilltop building that survived Soviet occupation, civil war and Taliban rule, was the latest in a string of deadly gun and bombing attacks in the capital that have targeted government intelligence facilities, hotels, mosques and other locations.

The Taliban, which attacked the same hotel in 2011, claimed responsibility for the attack, its spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

The attack was the second in eight years at the 200-room Intercontinental Hotel, located on top of a hill.

By 8am five of the six stories of the hotel had been cleared.

"We are hiding in our rooms". 'They shouted, "shoot to kill",' he said.

His phone has been switched off since then.

"Everything became chaotic in a moment".

According to Agence France-Presse, Afghan Telecom executive Aziz Tayeb hid behind a pillar while attackers ravaged the hotel with bullets.

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"Suddenly (militants) attacked the dinner gathering".

Even after officials said the attack was over, sporadic gunshots and explosions could be heard from the site.

Twelve people were wounded, but some survivors said they believed the death toll was higher than the government had acknowledged.

The Taliban claimed both attacks. They ramped up the operation and heavy shooting resumed.

At least 18 officers were killed, deputy police chief Abdul Raziq Qaderi told AFP.

Four gunmen burst into the hotel on Saturday night, opening fire on guests and staff and taking dozens of people hostage, including foreigners.

The US Ambassador in Kabul meanwhile condemned the attack and praised the Afghan forces' response to the attackers.

"The reports about the attack having being carried out by terrorists of the internationally proscribed Haqqani Network are a matter of serious concern and bring to fore once again the need to effectively deal with safe havens and sanctuaries that these terrorists find in our shared neighbourhood", the statement said.

"We will investigate it", he said.

By 10am, special forces could be seen sweeping the roof of the hotel while firefighters tried to extinguish the blaze which has caused serious damage to the building.

"They didn't do anything, they didn't attack".

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