Thursday, June 21, 2012

Afghan Taliban gunmen attack popular Kabul lakeside hotel with rocket propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, take hostages, several dead

Hostages are thought to include women and children, and some people have been killed, police says.
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan Taliban gunmen, some armed with rocket propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, have attacked a hotel in Kabul's popular Qargha Lake recreation area, triggering a gunbattle, Afghan police said on Friday.

"Insurgents armed with RPG rockets, and heavy and light weapons, are inside the Spozhmai Hotel and fighting with security forces. We don't know their numbers and if there have been casualties," said Mohammad Zahir, head of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Kabul police.

The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying wealthy Afghans and foreigners used the hotel to have "wild parties" in the leadup to the Friday religious day holiday.

Attacks across Afghanistan have surged in recent days, with three U.S. soldiers and more than a dozen civilians killed in successive attacks, mostly in the country's east, which has so far been a focus for NATO-led forces during the summer fighting months.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in a speech to a special session of parliament on Thursday that attacks by insurgents against local police and soldiers were increasing as foreign combat troops prepare to exit the country in 2014.

Afghan insurgents attacked Kabul's heavily-protected diplomatic and government district on April 15 in an assault eventually quelled by Afghan special forces, guided by Western mentors.