Taliban raid on Kabul hotel leaves 8 civilians, 2 policemen dead

At least eight civilians and two policemen were killed in a raid by a group of Taliban on a landmark hotel in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Tuesday night where senior provincial governors were staying, police say.

At least eight militants, some of them suicide bombers, were involved in the attack on the heavily-guarded InterContinental, which is popular with Westerners and has in the past hosted UN and EU missions.

Two policemen and eight civilians including a top judicial official were killed in the assault which began late on Tuesday while many guests were in the dining room, Kabul Police Chief General Mohammad Ayub Salangi said. Another twelve people were injured.

The ensuing fighting, which lasted for more than four hours, was brought to an end when NATO helicopters shot dead three insurgents who managed to reach the roof, security sources said.

Official figures on the number of people killed in the attack have not been released; however, police have said 16 bodies have been identified, including those of eight insurgents.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said an insurgent group had carried out the attack.

An Afghan official said the insurgents were armed with machine guns, anti-aircraft weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades.

Security sources said there were up to 70 guests at the hotel at the time, all of whom are reported safe.

The assault came the day before a conference was to begin on the transition of civil and military responsibility for security in Afghanistan from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force to Afghan security forces.

Violence has flared in Afghanistan since the killing by U.S. commandos of al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in neighboring Pakistan on May 2.

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