KABUL - The Taliban stormed a lakeside hotel north of Kabul, killing three security guards, taking hostages and staging an hours-long gun battle with Afghan security forces, police said Friday.
At least three suicide bombers — armed with machines guns, rocket-propelled grenades and vests laden with explosives — killed the guards, then burst into the Spozhmai hotel at Qargha Lake around 11:30 p.m. Thursday, Kabul police said in a statement. At least one policeman was also killed in the attack, said Kabul Police Chief Mohammad Ayub Salangi.
By mid-morning Friday, an unknown number of militants were still fighting Afghan forces. Black smoke was rising from the two-story hotel, according to Associated Press video. NATO helicopters circled overhead.
There were civilian casualties, but Afghan authorities did not have details because they have not been able to get inside the hotel.
"It was around 11:20 p.m. last night when it all started," said Mohammad Ghani, who was at the scene. "It got quiet for a couple of hours and then the fighting stated again."
Eighteen people, including women and children, have been rescued from the hotel and two of the attackers were dead, said Gen. Kadam Shah Shayem, an Afghan army commander in Kabul.
Four guests jumped out of a window at the two-story hotel and crouched in the lake to hide from the attackers, Shayem said.
"Our forces have surrounded the area," Shayem said. "There is still shooting. We are being very careful because there still are people — civilians — inside the hotel."
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the Taliban attacked the hotel because foreigners there were drinking alcohol and participating in other activities banned by Islam.
The U.S.-led coalition was supporting Afghan security forces who responded to the attack.