At least four gunmen stormed into Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, sparking a twelve-hour fight with security forces that left terrified guests, according to an intelligence source.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which saw more than 150 guests flee, with some shimmying down tied-together sheets from upper-floor windows and others rescued by Afghan forces.
Afghan Special Forces ended the overnight siege on Sunday, killing the last gunman from the group after they took hostages and battled security forces for hours.
Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish confirmed the attack, but gave no details. He did, however, say that at least five other people had been killed and six wounded, while 153 people, including 41 foreigners had been evacuated.
Danish said authorities were investigating how the gunmen managed to get past the checkpoints.
A source at the counter-terrorism unit said the attack began with an explosion which caused a power outage.
Afghan Interior Ministry announced on Saturday that a number of people were killed and some were taken hostage after an attack on a hotel in Kabul.
"The Afghan interior ministry confirms that gunmen killed a number of civilians and held hostages at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul,” reported local television Tolo channel.
The channel also reported Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish saying that police forces closed the area surrounding the hotel.
Spokesman Danish told Reuters that at least five other people were killed and six wounded, a lower casualty total than earlier feared, while 153 people, including 41 foreigners were evacuated.
One guest quoted by Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency reported hearing gunshots from his hotel room.
"I don't know if the attackers are inside the hotel but I can hear gunfire from somewhere near the first floor," he said, adding: “we are hiding in our rooms. I beg the security forces to rescue us as soon as possible before they reach and kill us."
Media sources reported hearing several explosions, and witnesses said they saw gunmen, believed to be suicide bombers, storming into the lobby.
The Intercontinental was last targeted in June 2011 when a suicide attack claimed by the Taliban killed 21 people, including 10 civilians.
The hotel hosted on Saturday morning a conference on Chinese investment in Afghanistan.
Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told DPA that the attackers set the kitchen on fire and stationed themselves in the fourth and fifth floors of the building.
Rahimi added that special forces surrounded the area, but the exact number of casualties was unclear initially.
Tolo News reported that some hotel guests were killed and others were taken, hostage.