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Gunmen kill at least five at luxury Kabul hotel

Several people have been killed after gunmen launched a deadly assault on a luxury hotel in Kabul.

Up to four people armed with guns and hand grenades seized hostages at the five-star Intercontinental Hotel in the Afghan capital on Saturday.

The attackers killed at least five people and wounded eight others, while around 100 hostages have been released, officials said.

At least two of the gunmen have been killed as Afghan special forces launched an operation to end the assault, which came days after a US embassy warning of possible attacks on hotels in the city.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but Islamic State has said it has been behind several deadly assaults in Kabul in recent months.

Hotel manager Ahmad Haris Nayab, who escaped unhurt, said the gunmen entered the hotel through a kitchen and people tried to get out amid bursts of gunfire.

Afghan security forces arrive the site of an attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul
Afghan security forces arrive at the five-star hotel

According to one witness, who did not want to be named, the attackers took some hotel staff and guests hostage.

Bilal Sarwary, a journalist in Afghanistan, told Sky News: “Some local TV stations are reporting that two loud explosions were heard.”

He described it as a “complex attack” and added: “Eyewitnesses have said they managed to escape and there were a number of casualties and fatalities on several of the floors.”

The Intercontinental Hotel, which is popular with foreigners, was previously attacked by Taliban fighters in 2011 when 21 people were killed, including 10 civilians.

The US embassy in Kabul had issued a warning to American citizens on Thursday, saying: “We are aware of reports that extremist groups may be planning an attack against hotels in Kabul.”

Gunmen have stormed the Kabul Intercontinental Hotel
The Kabul Intercontinental Hotel is located on a hilltop and is heavily protected.

The US State Department said it was monitoring the situation and was in contact with Afghan authorities to determine whether any American citizens had been affected.

More than 100 IT managers and engineers were at the Intercontinental Hotel ahead of a conference when Saturday’s attack took place, an official at the telecommunications ministry said.

A conference on Afghanistan-China relations was held at the hotel earlier in the day, attended by the Chinese embassy’s political counsellor Zhang Zhixin.

The attack came days after a United Nations Security Council visit to Kabul to states to assess the situation in Afghanistan.

Security has been tightened in the city since a truck bomber killed at least 150 people outside the German embassy in May.

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