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Four gunmen raid Kabul hotel

Attackers inside building, exchange fire with security forces: Manager

A file picture of the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul

Kabul: A group of as many as four gunmen attacked the Intercontinental Hotel in the Afghan capital Kabul and were exchanging fire with security forces on Saturday as residents and staff fled.

Hotel manager Ahmad Haris Nayab, who escaped unhurt, said the attackers had managed to get inside and people were fleeing amid bursts of gunfire on all sides. However, he could say nothing about any casualties.

Afghan interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said details of the raid, which came days after a US embassy warning of possible attacks on hotels in the capital, were unclear. However, the attackers appeared to have included suicide bombers.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest in a long series of attacks to hit Kabul.

The hotel, located on a hilltop and heavily protected like most public buildings in the city, was previously attacked by Taliban fighters in 2011.

It is one of Kabul's two main luxury hotels and is used for events including conferences attended by government officials.

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

Although the Nato-led Resolute Support mission says the Taliban has come under pressure after the US increased assistance to Afghan security forces and stepped up air strikes against the insurgents, security remains precarious.

As pressure on the battlefield has increased, security officials have warned that the danger of attacks on high profile targets in Kabul and other cities would increase.

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

A National Directorate of Security (NDS) official said: "Four attackers are inside the building." They are "shooting at guests", he said.

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.

A guest hiding in his room in the hotel said he could hear gunfire. "I don't know if the attackers are inside the hotel but I can hear gunfire from somewhere near the first floor," he said without giving his name.

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