KABUL - Gunmen stormed a guesthouse in the Afghan capital as it hosted a party for foreigners, and authorities said five people, including an American, were killed during an hourslong siege that ended early Thursday morning. Six people were wounded and 54 hostages rescued.
Kabul police chief Gen. Abdul Rahman Rahimi said the attack began at 8:30 p.m. local time Wednesday, when gunmen opened fire at the restaurant of the Park Palace Hotel. He had no breakdown on the nationalities of the victims, but a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said an American was among the dead.
Throughout the standoff, sporadic gunfire echoed around the guesthouse in a central neighbourhood that is home to United Nations compounds and a foreign-run hospital. At one point two explosions could be heard and four ambulances later arrived to the scene.
Amin Habib, a U.S. citizen from Los Angeles, told The Associated Press that a party was going on at the hotel to honour a Canadian when the gunmen stormed the guesthouse. He said dozens of people, including foreigners and U.S. citizens, were inside the hotel at the time.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Monica Cummings said in an email statement that a U.S. citizen was killed in the attack, although she had no further details and did not identify the victim. She said the U.S. Embassy was in close contact with Afghan authorities and was working to obtain more information. "Our thoughts are with the families of the victims,'' she said.
Amar Sinha, India's ambassador to Afghanistan, said he believed at least six of the hostages were Indian citizens. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Twitter account said he was "concerned about the situation (and) I pray for everyone's safety.''
Canada's Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman Caitlin Workman said all staff at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul were "safe and accounted for.''
Hours after the standoff began, fire trucks arrived at the scene, with firefighters saying they were called in to clear and secure the area. A number of people were seen leaving the building.
Earlier Wednesday, police officers freed some 20 people trapped in the guesthouse, but others had remained inside, according to Zia Massoud, an Afghan government official.
The hotel has both guest rooms for visitors and a residential area for those who live full time in Kabul, including foreign aid workers.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, though the Taliban have attacked guesthouses before in Kabul.
Afghan security forces have been struggling to fend off Taliban attacks since U.S. and NATO forces formally concluded their combat mission at the end of last year.
Also on HuffPost