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At least five dead in Kabul hotel attack: Afghan spy agency

© AFP | Afghan security forces keep watch near the Intercontinental Hotel following an attack in Kabul on January 21, 2018

KABUL (AFP) - 

Gunmen have killed at least five people and wounded eight others in an ongoing attack on Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel, an official said Sunday, as panicked guests were seen climbing over balconies to escape.

More than eleven hours after the assault began Afghan security forces were still clearing the hotel, with at least one of the four gunmen involved on the loose, a security source said.

"Five are dead," an official with the Afghan spy agency told AFP, adding 100 hostages have been released.

Dramatic images broadcast on Afghanistan's Tolo News showed thick black smoke and flames billowing from the top of the six-floor hotel.

Several people could be seen climbing over a top-floor balcony using bedsheets to escape, with one losing his grip and plunging to the ground.

Four gunmen burst into the hotel on Saturday night, opening fire on guests and staff and taking dozens of people hostage, including foreigners.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest assault in the war-torn Afghan capital that followed a series of security warnings in recent days to avoid hotels and other locations frequented by foreigners.

It is not clear how many people are still inside the hotel, which was previously attacked by Taliban militants in 2011.

During the night special forces were lowered by helicopters onto the roof of the landmark hotel, interior ministry deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told AFP earlier, adding two attackers had been killed.

A guest hiding in a room told AFP he could hear gunfire inside the 1960s hotel where dozens of people attending an information technology conference on Sunday were staying.

"I don't know if the attackers are inside the hotel but I can hear gunfire from somewhere near the first floor," the man, who did not want to be named, said by telephone.

"We are hiding in our rooms. I beg the security forces to rescue us as soon as possible before they reach and kill us."

His phone was switched off when AFP tried to contact him again.

Local resident Abdul Sattar said he had spoken by phone to some of his friends who are chefs and waiters at the hotel and are trapped inside.

"Suddenly they attacked the dinner gathering... (then) they broke into the rooms, took some people hostage and they opened fire on some of them," he told AFP.

© 2018 AFP