Kabul(Reuters): Authorities at the scene of a five-hour attack on a guest house in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Wednesday said the standoff between armed attackers and police was over. The police chief of Kabul was expected to speak to reporters soon about casualties, details of which remained unclear.
Two Indian nationals among seven foreigners who were reportedly killed in the attack. The US Embassy has confirmed that one American citizen has been killed in the incident.
An army commander said at least 16 people were rescued from the Park Plaza guest house in an area popular with foreigners and wealthy Afghans. Police on the scene cited witnesses saying dozens had been trapped inside the guest house.
Gunmen stormed a guest house popular with foreigners in the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday evening just before it was due to host a concert, and up to 100 people were reportedly trapped inside as security forces fought to clear the building. Authorities cordoned off the area around the Park Palace guest house in Kabul's Kolola Pushta area immediately after the attack began around 8:30 p.m. local time (1600 GMT). Three police in the area said several attackers had entered the Park Palace and were believed to be still inside. All three spoke on condition of anonymity.
Kolola Pushta is home to several international guest houses and hotels and is near both the Ministry of Interior and the Indian embassy. India's ambassador to Afghanistan tweeted that all Indian nationals were reported safe.
Earlier on Wednesday, gunmen opened fire at a meeting of prominent Muslim clerics in the southern province of Helmand, killing at least seven people, police official Jan Aqa said. The Ulemma Council, the highest religious authority in a deeply conservative country, had repeatedly announced its support for security forces fighting the hardline Islamist Taliban insurgents.
The Taliban have stepped up attacks since they announced their "spring offensive" last month, after most foreign forces pulled out at the end of last year, and claimed responsibility for the Helmand assault.
Ousted from power in 2001, the Taliban have been fighting to bring down the U.S.-backed government in Kabul. Earlier this month, insurgent suicide bombers twice attacked buses carrying staff belonging to the attorney general's office in Kabul, killing at least four people.