- Specialist forces have killed two gunmen and are still battling two more inside
- Attackers are believed to have taken staff and guests hostage and killed ‘several’
- The fourth floor of the hotel, attacked by the Taliban in 2011, caught on fire
Several people have been killed and at least seven wounded after four gunmen stormed Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel wearing suicide vests.
The incident unfolded at 9pm local time (4.30pm GMT) with sounds of gunfire, an explosion and reports of armed men ‘shooting at guests’.
Two of the attackers have been killed, with specialist forces still battling the others inside.
Flames engulfed the fourth floor of the hotel, which sits on a hilltop and is heavily protected by security guards.
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi confirmed there have been multiple fatalities.
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The Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan is under seige after four gunmen stormed the building
Four gunmen believed to be wearing suicide vests attacked the Intercontinental Hotel in the Afghan capital of Kabul
The incident unfolded at 9pm local time (4.30pm) with sounds of gunfire and an explosion
Armed men are pictured outside the luxury resort as specialist forces take on the attackers inside. Two were shot dead
An armed official is pictured by an ambulance outside the Intercontinental hotel complex
A member of the Afghan security forces keeps watch of the siege in Kabul
He said: ‘Seven wounded people have been taken to hospital.
‘Some other guests have been rescued. We will be able to release casualty figures once the operation ends.’
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, the latest of several in Kabul.
Unverified reports say at least 15 people have been killed, but these have not been confirmed.
There were foreign visitors among the hotel guests, but it is not clear whether they included any UK residents.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office told MailOnline all British embassy staff are accounted for and they are ‘in touch with local authorities and are monitoring the situation closely’.
There were foreign visitors among the hotel guests, but it is not clear whether they included any UK residents
Two of the attackers have been shot dead, with specialist forces still battling the others inside
Local media is reporting ‘multiple’ casualties and hotel staff and guests being taken hostage
Pictured: The five-star Intercontinental Hotel in the Afghan capital of Kabul
Firefighters battled to put out the blaze on the fourth floor, which has four restaurants and a swimming pool.
Security forces cleared the first and second floors but still had to take on the remaining attackers in those above.
UK TRAVEL ADVICE WARNS OF ‘REGULAR HOTEL ATTACKS’
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office warns against the risk of staying in hotels in Kabul.
It says: ‘Hotels and guesthouses used by foreign nationals and the government of Afghanistan are subject to regular threats.
‘The British Embassy doesn’t allow official visitors to stay in hotels overnight and has placed restaurants and other venues off limits to staff.’
Source: FCO travel advice
It is unclear how they managed to get past security guards, but are believed to have entered through the kitchen.
A man who escaped the attack told Wall Street Journal reporter Ehsanullah Amiri he saw ‘four dead bodies outside the hotel’.
He also claimed the men were shouting ‘Allah-u-Akbar’ and ‘throwing people from windows of upper floors’.
A guest hiding in his room said he could hear gunfire. Electricity was cut out.
He told AFP: ‘I don’t know if the attackers are inside the hotel but I can hear gunfire from somewhere near the first floor.
‘We are hiding in our rooms. I beg the security forces to rescue us as soon as possible before they reach and kill us.’
The hotel, one of two main luxury resorts in the city, was previously attacked by Taliban fighters in 2011, killing 21 people, including 10 civilians.
The hotel (pictured), one of two main luxury resorts in the city, was previously attacked by Taliban fighters in 2011
It is often used for events including conferences attended by government officials.
A conference on Afghan-Chinese relations was held at the hotel earlier today, attended by the Chinese embassy’s political counsellor Zhang Zhixin.
It is believed an IT conference of provincial officials was taking place at the time of the attack, before the men opened fire.
On Thursday the US embassy in Kabul issued a warning to American citizens in the city that ‘extremist groups may be planning an attack against hotels in Kabul’.
Tonight an official at the National Directorate of Security (NDS) told ADP: ‘Four attackers are inside the building. They are shooting at guests.’
Another official said the attackers were armed with small weapons and rocket-propelled grenades when they entered the hotel, which often hosts weddings, conferences and political gatherings.
‘They are now on the third and fourth floors fighting with our forces. We don’t know the details of casualties yet but they set the kitchen on fire,’ Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.
Mr Danish added: ‘Our special forces are in the area. The operation will soon end and the attackers will be killed.’
The hotel, one of two main luxury resorts in the city, was previously attacked (pictured) by Taliban fighters in 2011, killing 21 people, including 10 civilians.
Pictured: The Intercontinental Hotel was last attacked by the Taliban in 2011
While it shares the same name, the Kabul Intercontinental is not part of the global Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) and is instead state-owned.
The hotel issued a statement after the attacks in 2011 saying that ‘the hotel Inter-continental in Kabul is not part of IHG and has not been since 1980’.
Security in the Afghan capital has been tightened since May 31 last year when a massive truck bomb ripped through the diplomatic quarter, killing some 150 people and wounding around 400 others – mostly civilians. No group has yet claimed that attack.
The Islamic State group has claimed most of the recent attacks in the Afghan capital, but authorities suspect that the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network has been involved in some of the assaults.
The deadliest of the recent attacks happened at a Shiite cultural centre on December 29 when a suicide bomber blew himself up, killing more than 40 people.
2011 INTERCONTINENTAL KABUL HOTEL ATTACK THAT LEFT 21 DEAD
Flames engulf the Kabul Intercontinental Hotel during 2011 Taliban attack
The last attack on Kabul’s Intercontinental hotel took place on June 28 2011, before the withdrawal of UK and US troops from the region.
Between 60 and 70 guests were in the building at the time, as well as 30 provincial Government officials who were attending a briefing about the transfer of security responsibilities from the US military to the Afghan security forces.
After a five-hour siege, the incident was stood down, leaving 21 people dead.
Among the casualties were all nine of the attackers, five hotel staff, and three policemen.
Responsibility was claimed by the Taliban, whose men entered the hotel with assault rifles, hand grenades and machine guns at 10pm local time.
Suicide vests were also detonated at the hotel’s entrance and on the second floor.
The deadly assault left two dance halls destroyed.
Eventually the attackers got the fifth floor where a showdown between them and security forces ensued.
Hotel guests were told to barricade themselves in their rooms, with others escaped by jumping from lower levels.