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In Afghanistan, gunmen take hostages in siege of lakeside hotel

The Taliban claims responsibility for the assault near Kabul, which results in a clash with security forces. At least two attackers and a police officer are killed, and civilian casualties are feared.

June 22, 2012|By Laura King, Los Angeles Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — Gunmen seized control of a lakeside hotel outside the Afghan capital early Friday, taking hostages and setting off an hours-long battle, police said. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

By midmorning, about 20 hotel guests had been rescued and at least two of the attackers were dead, police said. One police officer was reported killed as well. Police said some civilians were believed to have been injured or killed, but did not yet have a firm count.

The team of attackers, echoing a pattern in past strikes, besieged the Spozhmai hotel on the shores of Lake Karga with heavy weapons, with some of the assailants wearing vests laden with explosives. Police surrounded the hotel, but said they proceeded cautiously to try to prevent a bloodbath.

Some of the guests managed to escape by jumping out windows and taking refuge in the water.

Thursday evening is the start of the Afghan weekend, and the lake, about 45 minutes north of the capital, is a popular getaway for Kabul's wealthy elite. A private party was taking place when the attack began, police said.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the hotel was targeted because of immoral behavior taking place there.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force said Afghan police had taken the lead in responding to the attack, but that its troops were ready to help if asked. Helicopters could be seen circling overhead.

A similar attack last summer on a landmark Kabul hotel ended after international troops provided assistance, including air support and special forces.

The Pakistan-based Haqqani network, a Taliban offshoot, has staged similar high-profile attacks in Kabul, including a lengthy siege of the diplomatic district this year.

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