KABUL, Afghanistan — NATO helicopters fired rockets at gunmen on the rooftop of a besieged Kabul hotel early today, ending a more than four-hour standoff between militants and police that left at least seven dead and eight others wounded, Afghan officials said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said six suicide bombers attacked the Inter-Continental hotel frequented by Afghan officials and foreign visitors. He said two were killed by hotel guards at the beginning of the attack and four others either blew themselves up or were killed in the airstrike or by Afghan security forces.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the rare, nighttime attack in the capital — an apparent attempt to show that they remain potent despite heavy pressure from coalition and Afghan security forces.
The attackers were heavily armed with machine guns, anti-aircraft weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and grenade launchers, the Afghan officials said. Afghan police rushed to the scene and firefights broke out. They battled for hours with gunmen who took up positions on the roof.
Some Afghan provincial officials were among the 60 to 70 guests staying at the hotel.
Abdul Zahir Faizada, who is head of the local council in Herat province in western Afghanistan, was staying at the hotel. He planned to attend a conference in Kabul today to discuss plans for Afghan security forces to take the lead for securing an increasing number of areas of the country between now and 2014 when international forces are expected to move out of combat roles. Afghans across the country were in the city to attend.
“We were locked in a room. Everybody was shooting and firing,” said Faizada who was staying at the hotel with the mayor of Herat city and other officials from the province. “I heard a lot of shooting.”
Deputy police chief in Kabul, Daoud Amin, said seven people died in the attack and eight other people — two policemen and six civilians — were wounded. The attackers are not counted in that death toll.
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