Heavily armed insurgents stormed a guesthouse in the diplomatic quarter of Kabul late on Tuesday night and were still resisting Afghan security forces more than five hours after the assault began.
The attack targeted a guesthouse owned by a prominent Afghan political family, Kabul’s police chief said, declining to provide details on the occupants.
“There hasn’t been a face-to-face confrontation yet,” Abdul Rahman Rahimi said. “We have cleared several areas and only a check post at the front of the compound is left.”
There was no immediate word on casualties, but explosions and gunfire continued to be heard after 4 a.m. (2330 GMT), more than five hours after the attack started.
Afghan and Western security sources said the compound was known to be used by foreigners, but it was unclear if any were in the guesthouse at the time.
It was unclear who was responsible for the attack. Representatives of the Taliban, which has been waging an Islamist insurgency in Afghanistan since being toppled by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Teams of elite Afghan security forces were deployed to the guesthouse area, an upscale part of the capital where many embassies and government buildings are located.
Hours after the attack began, it was still unclear how many insurgents were involved and police vehicles continued to block roads in the diplomatic quarter to traffic.
Investigative teams remained on standby at checkpoints, waiting to be given the all clear to access the site.
Over a dozen blasts were counted in the first hour of the attack, while bursts of gunfire and multiple explosions continued into the morning.
Kabul’s police chief said the guesthouse was owned by the Rabbani family, and further information would be shared once the area was secure. The late Burhanuddin Rabbani served as president of Afghanistan in the 1990s and his son, Salahuddin, is the current foreign minister.
Several of the more powerful blasts heard could have been caused by suicide bombers detonating their vests, an Afghan security source said, but hours after the attack started it was unclear how many insurgents were involved.
The Afghan capital has been hit by a series of high-profile attacks on foreigners and government targets over the past two weeks.
The Taliban targeted the Park Palace hotel on May 13, killing more than a dozen people. The largest number of casualties were Afghan civilians, but an American, a British-Afghan national, four Indians, an Italian and a Kazakh were also among the dead.
NATO’s 13-year combat mission officially ended in December and the small contingent that remains in the country is mostly focused on training Afghan security forces.
Afghan civilians, however, are bearing the brunt of the bloody conflict that has escalated around the country as foreign troops have withdrawn.
Following the deadly hotel attack two weeks ago, an EU vehicle was bombed a few days later, near Kabul’s airport, in a blast that killed a British security contractor and at least two Afghan civilians.
Last week, at least five Afghans were killed and dozens more wounded by a car bomb that detonated in the parking lot of the Afghan Ministry of Justice.
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