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Gunmen seize control of lakeside hotel in Afghanistan

June 21, 2012 |  6:35 pm

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Gunmen seized control of a lakeside hotel outside the Afghan capital and were holding hostages early Friday, police said. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

Some casualties were reported by Kabul police, but at daybreak the number of dead or injured was unclear.  Police said some guests jumped into the water to try to escape.

The attackers, echoing a pattern in past strikes, besieged the hotel on the shores of Lake Karga with heavy weapons, setting off an hours-long battle. A police official said authorities did not want to storm the hotel, for fear of further endangering those trapped inside.

Thursday evening is the start of the Afghan weekend, and the lake is a popular getaway for the capital’s wealthy elite. A private party was taking place when the attack began, police said.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said Afghan police had taken the lead in responding to the attack, but that its troops stood ready to help break the siege if necessary. A similar attack last summer on a landmark Kabul hotel ended after international troops provided assistance, including air support and special forces.

The Pakistani-based Haqqani network, a Taliban offshoot, has staged similar attacks in Kabul, including a lengthy siege of the diplomatic district this year.

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-- Laura King


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