Gunfire and explosions rock Kabul hotel as siege draws to an end

Security personnel waved Afghan flags on the roof top of the hotel to signal they had cleared and secured the building, ending the siege. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Kabul, Afghanistan Jan 21, 2018, 10.08 AM (IST)

Explosions and heavy gunfire rocked Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel as Afghan Special Forces moved through each floor fighting surviving gunmen who attacked the hotel a day earlier, killing at least five people.

Security personnel waved Afghan flags on the rooftop of the hotel to signal they had cleared and secured the building, ending the siege which started on Saturday (January 20) night and lasted 13 hours.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack which saw more than 150 guests flee. The raid came just days after a U.S. embassy warning of possible attacks on hotels in Kabul.

Witnesses said the gunmen were dressed in army uniforms, but it was unclear how many were involved. The government said three gunmen were killed while witnesses said four were involved and the Taliban said five.

The Intercontinental Hotel, an imposing 1960s structure set on a hilltop and heavily protected like most public buildings in Kabul, was previously attacked by Taliban fighters in 2011. While it shares the same name, the hotel in Kabul is not part of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which issued a statement in 2011 saying that "the hotel Inter-continental in Kabul is not part of IHG and has not been since 1980".