Suicide bomber, gunmen attack Kabul hotel: officials

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jun 22 2012 08:21 AM | Updated as of Jun 22 2012 04:21 PM

Kabul - Taliban insurgents armed with rockets and automatic weapons have launched a suicide attack on a hotel in a popular Kabul beauty spot, NATO and police said Friday, with Afghan casualties reported.

Afghan security forces and coalition troops are responding to the assault at the site at Qargha Lake on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) told AFP.

The target appeared to be Afghan police and civilians, ISAF said, adding there were reports of police and civilian casualties.

Mohammad Zahir, the head of Kabul police criminal investigation department, said the attack began around 11:30 pm (1900 GMT) on Thursday, when suicide attackers armed with rockets and Kalashnikov rifles stormed a gathering at the Spozhmai Hotel.

At least one of the attackers detonated his explosive suicide vest, Zahir said.

Kabul deputy police chief Daoud Amin said that according to hotel guards, there were three attackers inside the hotel, as well as numerous civilians.

"Currently, police forces have besieged the hotel where people gathered for a picnic or wedding party," he told AFP.

"We will start the operation against them soon and we will be very careful so that not to harm to civilians."

Taliban violence has surged in recent days, with three US soldiers and more than 20 Afghans killed in a series of suicide attacks targeting Afghan-NATO military posts this week.

The Qargha assault came just hours after President Hamid Karzai warned that attacks against local police and soldiers were increasing as they prepare to take over security when NATO combat troops leave in 2014.

The attack will only heighten fears about security as NATO prepares to hand responsibility to Afghan forces and recall the vast majority of its 130,000 combat troops.

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