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Second Guesthouse Targeted In Latest Kabul Attack

Afghan police stand guard outside the Heetal hotel in Kabul on May 27.
Afghan police stand guard outside the Heetal hotel in Kabul on May 27.

An all-night gunbattle with insurgents who stormed a guesthouse in the diplomatic quarter of Kabul ended at daybreak May 27 with four attackers dead, an Afghan government minister said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on what it called "the occupiers."

Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Ayoub Salangi announced on Twitter that four attackers were killed after hours of clashing with police, despite carrying heavy weapons, including grenade and rocket launchers and AK-47s.

"There were no civilian or military casualties," he added, apparently because the militants were cut off by police before reaching the guesthouse.

"Four insurgents who were equipped with weapons wanted to attack and enter a hotel in between 13th and 15th street of Wazir Akbar Khan," Kabul Police Chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan. "Police reached the area simultaneously and prevented them from entering [the hotel.] During the operation, police killed four attackers.”

Authorities did not identify the guesthouse, but Afghan and Western security sources said the target was the Rabbani guesthouse, a hotel owned by the family of a former president and the current foreign minister of Afghanistan, Salahuddin Rabbani.

Known as the Heetal Hotel, the guesthouse is popular with foreigners. The Afghan capital has been hit by a series of high-profile attacks on foreigners and government targets over the past two weeks.

Taliban militants staged an assault on a Kabul guesthouse on May 13, killing an American, a British citizen, an Italian, four Indian nationals, five Afghans, and two Pakistanis.

The stepped-up attacks on government and foreign targets come despite Kabul's repeated overtures to reopen peace talks.

But the Taliban failed to hit its target this time, authorities said.

Kabul police spokesman Ebadullah Karimi told AFP that "the attackers wanted to get into Heetal Hotel but failed."

He said they were forced to shoot it out with police in a stand of trees behind the hotel.

The manager of the Heetal Hotel said all the guests were in safe rooms and no one was hurt.

"Heetal is very well fortified. After one or two initial explosions, our guards started firing on attackers, who were unable to get inside," he told AFP by telephone.

The Rabbani guesthouse has seen violence before, suffering damage in a December 2009 suicide car bombing that killed eight people and wounded nearly 40.

The assault began at about 11 p.m. local time and lasted for hours, with sporadic gunfire and huge explosions reverberating through the upscale neighborhood.

Police fanned out around the neighborhood, taking up positions on rooftops, though visibility was limited by darkness.

Police set up roadblocks around the diplomatic quarter to prevent the insurgents from escaping.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP