Kabul: Three suicide bombers attacked a lakeside hotel north of Kabul, taking hostages and staging an hours-long gunbattle with Afghan security forces, police said on Friday.

The bombers, armed with machines guns, rocket-propelled grenades and vests laden with explosives, attacked the Spozhmai hotel at Qargha Lake around 11 p.m. Thursday night and fighting continued this morning, said Mohammad Zahir, criminal director for Kabul police.

Eighteen people, including women and children, have been rescued from the hotel and two of the attackers are dead, said Gen. Kadam Shah Shayem, a commander with the Afghan National Army in Kabul.

Kabul police chief Mohammad Ayub Salangi said at least one policeman was killed in the attack.

Four guests jumped out of a window at the two-story hotel and crouched in the lake to hide from the attackers, Shayem said.

"Our forces have surrounded the area," Shayem said. "There is still shooting. We are being very careful because there still are people - civilians - inside the hotel."

There were civilian casualties, but details were not immediately available.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said they attacked the hotel because foreigners there were drinking and participating in other activities banned by Islam.

The US-led coalition was supporting Afghan security forces who responded to the attack, the coalition said. An Associated Press photographer at the scene said coalition helicopters were circling over the site.


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