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Kabul: Afghan forces end Intercontinental Hotel siege

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Afghan security forces say they have regained control of a luxury hotel in Kabul after it was stormed by gunmen.

At least five civilians were killed and six were injured in the siege, the interior ministry said on Sunday.

Three of the attackers have been killed, a ministry spokesman said. More than 150 guests were rescued.

The gunmen burst into the Intercontinental Hotel on Saturday evening, shooting at guests and staff and detonating grenades.

The spokesman said one foreigner was among those killed. Special forces battled to secure the hotel and rescue people trapped inside, he added.

No group has said it carried out the attack, but the Taliban targeted the Intercontinental hotel in 2011.

Saturday's attack came just days after the US embassy in Kabul issued a warning about hotels in the city.

"We are aware of reports that extremist groups may be planning an attack against hotels in Kabul," the embassy wrote in a public security alert published Thursday, though it highlighted another hotel near the international airport as a possible target.

"These groups may also be targeting public gatherings/demonstrations, government facilities, transportation, markets, and places where foreigners are known to congregate."

Another interior ministry spokesman told AFP news agency that an investigation had begun into how the attackers had breached security, which was handed over to a private company two weeks ago.

"They probably used a back door in the kitchen to enter," he said.

The Intercontinental is a state-owned hotel which often hosts weddings, conferences and political gatherings.

Some reports said the hotel had been hosting an IT conference attended by provincial officials when the gunmen stormed it.

The Taliban attack in 2011 killed 21 people, including nine militants.

Security has been tightened in Kabul since last May, when a huge truck bomb killed at least 150 people.

However, there have been several attacks in recent months. They include a bomb at a Shia cultural centre last month that killed more than 40 people.

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