KABUL – Gunmen stormed a guest house popular with foreigners in the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday evening, police said, with at least one American killed and dozens others trapped by fighting between the attackers and rescuers.
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.
The attack ended about five hours later as ambulances raced out of the area. Kabul’s police chief was due to speak to reporters soon, police said.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy confirmed that one American was killed in the attack but gave no other details.
Qadam Shah Shaheem, commander of the Afghan National Army’s 111th Corps, said police, army and special forces had rescued at least 16 people, but police cited witnesses as saying as many as 100 people were still inside.
“Today, there was going to be a music concert there. Fortunately, most guests had not arrived yet,” Shaheem said.
“The rescue operation is still on … It is a big, two-story building with several rooms, so it will take some time to clear it.”
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.