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Insurgents launch suicide attack on Kabul hotel

TALIBAN suicide attackers took hostages and killed at least eight people after storming a lakeside hotel at a popular Kabul beauty spot.

Militants armed with explosive vests, assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades attacked the Spozhmai hotel near Qarga Lake, late on Thursday night.

The assault, claimed by the Taliban, killed at least one policeman and there were unconfirmed reports of four civilians and three guards killed.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the insurgent movement, told reporters the attack had been against foreigners drinking alcohol at the hotel and breaking the rules of Islam.

However the area is not known as a popular hang-out for foreigners and police said it was not immediately clear any foreigners were inside the hotel.

Qarga Lake, west of the Afghan capital, is surrounded by hotels, restaurants and a golf course and is a popular weekend destination for Afghan families. Thursday night, before the weekly day of rest, is a busy period of the week.

As dawn broke on Friday, witnesses said shooting could still be heard and Nato and Afghan commandos began an operation to clear the hotel.

Ayoub Salangi, Kabul police chief, told Reuters that 18 civilian hostages had been freed so far.

He said: “Two terrorists have been killed and we have cleared the second floor of the hotel. We are now clearing the area of the remaining insurgents.”

“Our officers have not gone yet to the lake side [of the hotel] and we don't know if there are more terrorists," he said.