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Explosion, gunshots heard in Kabul as gunmen attack hotel housing foreigners

Smoke billows from a hotel after an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan on 12 December (EPA)
Smoke billows from a hotel after an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan on 12 December (EPA)

An explosion and gunfire rocked Kabul after gunmen attacked a hotel housing some foreigners in Afghanistan’s capital, two Taliban sources said on Monday.

A powerful explosion was heard after the gunfire by residents of the Shahr-e-Naw area, a commercial hub where the building is located, reported Reuters.

The attack has been carried out at a hotel frequented by Chinese and other foreign officials in the Afghan capital.

Some visuals on social media, reportedly of the hotel under siege, showed a fire engulfing one of the rooms and a thick cloud of smoke emanating from the building’s roof. The Independent could not immediately verify the authenticity of the visuals.

Another unverified video showed raging gunfire in the hotel’s vicinity. It is not yet clear if there have been any casualties or injuries from the attack.

The Taliban-led Afghanistan interior ministry and the Chinese embassy in Kabul have not commented on the attack yet.

Smoke rises from the site of the attack at Shahr-e-naw, one of Kabul’s main commercial areas (AFP via Getty Images)
Smoke rises from the site of the attack at Shahr-e-naw, one of Kabul’s main commercial areas (AFP via Getty Images)

China is among the handful of nations operating a full embassy at the capital but does not officially recognise the hardline Taliban regime. Kabul has also seen an influx of Chinese business officials after the Taliban returned to power in August last year.

The attack comes amid rising tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On Sunday, one Afghan soldier and six Pakistani civilians were killed in cross-border shelling and gunfire at the Chaman crossing that links Pakistan’s western Balochistan province with Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province.

Smoke billows from a hotel after an attack in Kabul (EPA)
Smoke billows from a hotel after an attack in Kabul (EPA)

The fighting erupted after Pakistan objected to officials from Afghanistan building a new checkpoint at the border crossing, sparking a two-hour long gun battle.

Multiple bombings and shooting attacks – some claimed to have been carried out by Isis militants – have gripped Afghanistan in recent months even as the Taliban has declared it was focusing on securing and strengthening the Islamic nation.