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18 dead in Kabul hotel attack, Taliban claim responsibility

media Afghan security personnel keep watch near the site of a suicide attack in Kabul on December 25, 2017 in which six civilians were killed AFP

Eighteen people, 14 of them foreigners, have died in a 12-hour attack on Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel, Afghanistan's interior ministry said late on Sunday morning.

"All three attackers were killed," interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish told Tolo News TV earlier Sunday, adding that 153 people hadbeen rescued, including more than 40 foreigners.

But Tolo later tweeted that the attack was not yet over and some of the attackers were still alive.

Tolo later announced that the siege was over after 17 hours and cited sources saying that 18 people were killed.

It posted video of special forces sweeping the roof and reported that a number of wounded were being rushed to hospîtal.

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack that followed a series of security warnings in recent days to avoid hotels and other locations frequented by foreigners.

Earlier on Saturday, an intelligence official said four attackers armed with small weapons and rocket-propelled grenades stormed the hotel, which is a popular venue for weddings, conferences and political gatherings.

Later officials said there were three attackers, all of whom were killed.

Abdullah Sabet, an official at the communications and information technology ministry, said around 40 IT officials from around the country were staying at the hotel ahead of a conference on Sunday.

Many guests locked themselves in their rooms in an attempt to hide from the attackers.

Authorities are questioning how the assailants got past the hotel's security, which was taken over by a private company two weeks ago.

Danish said they probably entered using a back door in the kitchen.

The Intercontinental was previously targeted in June 2011 when a suicide attack claimed by the Taliban killed 21 people, including 10 civilians.

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