Gunmen open fire in luxury hotel in Afghan capital

AMIR SHAH Associated Press Published:

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Gunmen opened fire in a luxury hotel frequented by foreigners in the Afghan capital Thursday, but no guests or staff members were wounded and security forces surrounded the men, killing three and trapping a fourth, officials said.

The standoff began Thursday night and bursts of gunfire could be heard from inside the Serena hotel as Afghan troops cordoned off the area.

A hotel worker named Gulam Ali told his brother over his cellphone that all the guests and staff members had taken refuge in the basement.

"Everybody's fine," he told his brother Mohammed Nabil, who let an Associated Press reporter listen to the conversation. "Foreigners, workers, everybody is in the basement. A quick-reaction unit from the police entered the Serena and the hotel is surrounded."

A senior intelligence official said the gunmen sneaked pistols into the heavily guarded hotel by hiding them in their socks. That official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.

Gen. Mohammad Ayub Salangi told the AP that three of the gunmen had been killed and another was trapped in a bathroom by security forces.

The Serena is considered one of the safest places to stay in Kabul. To enter the hotel, guests must pass through an exterior gate and are searched at a checkpoint with a metal detector.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban militants have threatened to disrupt upcoming elections, and many observers are staying at the hotel.