Gunmen storm Intercontinental Hotel in Afghan capital Kabul

FILE An Afghan man walks past the Intercontinental Hotel after an attack by Taliban fighters and a response by Afghan security forces backed by NATO helicopters in Kabul on 29 June 2011

Afghan media is reporting multiple casualties in the attack, which comes days after a UN Security Council delegation visited Kabul for a close-up view of the conflict.

A group of insurgents stormed the Intercontinental Hotel in Bagh-e-Bala area in Kabul city at about 9.20 pm on Saturday evening.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the ongoing attack.

Danish said the special units of the Afghan National Police (ANP) have launched clean-up operation at the hotel.

Explosions could be heard in the area and one witness said part of the building was on fire.

The Intercontinental was developed by the InterContinental Hotels Group and opened in 1969.

The hotel was attacked by the Taliban in 2011.

The Intercontinental Hotel is one of two main luxury hotels in Kabul and is used for events including conferences attended by government officials.

Afghan interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said many details of the raid, which came days after a USA embassy warning of possible attacks on hotels in the capital, were still unclear and there were no official casualty figures.

On Thursday, the USA embassy in Kabul issued a warning to USA citizens, saying "We are aware of reports that extremist groups may be planning an attack against hotels in Kabul".

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said it was not known if any American citizens had been caught up in the attack. They are "shooting at guests", he said.

As pressure on the battlefield has increased, security officials have warned that the danger of attacks on high profile targets in Kabul and other cities would increase.

Unofficial sources said that more than 15 people were killed and that several civilians were taken hostage by the assailants.

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