Afghan forces end Kabul hotel siege

Smoke rises from the Intercontinental Hotel during an attack in Kabul Afghanistan

"The US Embassy is in close contact with Afghan authorities, who are continuing to investigate the incident", he said. Foreigners remain a primary target for attacks and kidnappings for both groups, since they know the global attention that attacks on foreigners garner and the increased ransoms that accompany kidnapping foreigners.

At the time of the attack, officials from 34 provinces had gathered for a meeting organized by the Telecommunications Ministry. Some reports, including one from Reuters, put the number killed as high as 30.

About 160 people were able to flee or were rescued from the six-story building.

"Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with those affected by the terrorist attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul Afghanistan", said Elizabeth Reid, spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, in a statement.

The slain included nine people from Ukraine and one person each from Greece, Germany and Kazakhstan, Kabul Police Chief Salem Ehsas said.

The gunmen - armed with rocket-propelled grenades as well as smaller weapons - took numerous guests hostage.

A witness said he was having dinner with his son when he heard one of the gunmen shout, "Where are the foreigners?"

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They killed a woman - believed to be a foreigner - and turned the gun on the eyewitness himself. One of the gunmen shouted that they didn't kill Afghans and demanded to know "Where are the foreigners?"

"We are hiding in our rooms. They were sitting in the corner of the hotel and they immediately started spraying bullets", Hasibullah said. I tried to come down but I was heavy and my arms were not strong enough. I served them the food and they thanked me and took their seats. They include a bomb at a Shia cultural centre last month that killed more than 40 people. "I fell down and injured my shoulder and leg".

Once inside, they went through the ground and first floors, opening fire on staff and guests before moving quickly to the upper levels of the six-floor building.

In the final hours of the assault, the local media showed dramatic images of the hotel, from which a thick column of smoke emerged and in which people were seen trying to escape through the balconies of the sixth floor using sheets.

They were working with Western special forces to bring the siege to an end. "There is need for a credible investigation into the attack, including on reported security lapses".

Pakistan also strongly condemned the brutal terrorist attack at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul last evening.

Along with Shams, five other hotel guests, including a foreigner, managed to jump into the tree.