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Nine Killed In Attack On Kabul's Serena Hotel

Kabul's five-star Serena Hotel (in file photo) is popular with expatriates in the Afghan capital
Authorities in Afghanistan say at least nine civilians -- including four women and two children -- have been killed in a shooting attack at Kabul's luxury Serena Hotel.

Four foreign nationals -- from Canada, New Zealand, India, and Pakistan -- were among the dead.

All four of the attackers were reported killed in the ensuing shoot-out with Afghan security forces.

The heavily fortified Serena Hotel is used by UN staff and has been a frequent target of insurgent attacks.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the "underage" attackers "were able to hide...pistols in their socks, and at 21:00 o'clock they started shooting at some of the personnel of the hotel."

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that group's militants were responsible for the assault, and claimed the attackers had fired at foreign and Afghan guests celebrating the Afghan new year.

The Taliban has vowed a campaign of violence to disrupt the country's presidential election on April 5.

The Serena is regarded as among the most secure hotels in Kabul, with multiple layers of security.

A suicide bomber attacked the same hotel in 2008, killing six people.

Earlier on March 20, a suicide attack in eastern Afghanistan left 18 people dead, including 10 police officers, one civilian, and the seven attackers.

Fourteen police officers were also wounded in that attack, which targeted a police station in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar Province.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters