UK & World News
Taliban Hotel Siege Leaves At Least 18 Dead
A Taliban assault on a hotel on the outskirts of Kabul has left 18 people dead, according to local police.
Five attackers - armed with machines guns, rocket-propelled grenades and vests laden with explosives - stormed the Spozhmai hotel at Qargha Lake before midnight on Thursday.
The insurgents battled Afghan security forces while they held hotel guests hostage.
The attack left 12 civilians dead, and the siege was only brought to an end when the fifth and final militant was killed at midday on Friday.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the group attacked the hotel because foreigners there were drinking alcohol, and participating in other activities banned by Islam.
General Zahir said there was a private party for rich Afghans inside the hotel when the attack began.
Four guests jumped out of a window of the two-storey building and jumped into the lake to escape the assault, news agencies reported.
Qargha lake is a well-used location for weekend getaways from Kabul.
Restaurants and hotels that dot the shore are popular with Afghan government officials and businessmen, particularly on Thursday nights.
Attacks across Afghanistan have surged in recent days, with three US soldiers and more than a dozen civilians killed in successive attacks, mostly in the country's east, which has so far been a focus for Nato-led forces during the summer fighting months.
Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, said in a speech to a special session of parliament on Thursday that attacks by insurgents against local police and soldiers were increasing as foreign combat troops prepare to leave the country in 2014.
A statement by the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force said Afghan civilians and police were targeted in the attack on the hotel and that it had received reports of an unspecified number of casualties among civilians and police.