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Gunmen Attacks Kabul Hotel; At Least 10 Dead

A team of gunmen reportedly including suicide bombers has reportedly attacked the Inter-Continental hotel in Kabul, leaving at least 10 people dead and an unknown number of others wounded.

Witnesses heard gunfire and explosions from inside the hotel where police battled with gunmen. Some guests fled on foot down the steep, fortified hill that has usually provided the hotel with some security throughout many years of war in Kabul. The hotel is often full of Afghan dignitaries.

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul said officials believe several people were involved in the incident.

"An Afghan intelligence official in the hotel told me that three of the attackers have managed to detonate their suicide vest," Sawari said.

One of the attackers detonated his vest on the second floor where the rooms are, he said; the second at the front gate and the third at the hotel's rear.

"The Afghan intelligence official also said that the insurgents are choosing a late hour in the night, one where guards were relaxed," Sawari reported.

Police cordoned off the area and electricity had apparently been cut, leaving the massive building in darkness punctuated by muzzle flashes.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility in a telephone call to The Associated Press.

The U.S.-led military coalition said the Afghan Ministry of Interior had not requested any assistance from foreign forces.

Earlier on Tuesday, officials from the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan met in the capital to discuss prospects for making peace with Taliban insurgents to end the nearly decade-long war.

"The fact that we are discussing reconciliation in great detail is success and progress, but challenges remain and we are reminded of that on an almost daily basis by violence," Jawed Ludin, Afghanistan's deputy foreign minister, said at a news conference. "The important thing is that we act and that we act urgently and try to do what we can to put an end to violence."

The attack occurred the day before a conference was scheduled in Kabul to discuss plans for Afghan security forces to take the lead for securing an increasing number of areas of the country between now and 2014 when international forces are expected to move out of combat roles. Afghans across the country were in the city to attend, though it's not known if any where staying at the Inter-Continental.

NPR's Quil Lawrence contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press

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