Five killed as Taliban target guesthouse hosting party for foreigners

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for a late-night attack on a Kabul guesthouse that killed five people.

Gunmen stormed the restaurant of the Park Palace Hotel in the Afghan capital as it was hosting a party for foreigners, and authorities said the five were killed during an hours-long siege.

Six people were wounded and 54 hostages rescued.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in an email distributed to media said the group targeted the hotel because of the presence of foreigners including Americans there.

He said only one attacker was involved, armed with a Kalashnikov rifle, a suicide vest and a pistol - not three as the Afghan government reported.

Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman had no breakdown on the nationalities of the victims, but a US Embassy spokeswoman said an American was among the dead.

Throughout the stand-off, sporadic gunfire echoed around the guesthouse in a central neighbourhood that is home to United Nations compounds and a foreign-run hospital.

At one point two explosions were heard and four ambulances later arrived at the scene.

Amin Habi, a US citizen from Los Angeles, said a party was being held at the hotel to honour a Canadian when the gunmen stormed the guesthouse.

He said dozens of people were inside the hotel at the time.

US Embassy spokeswoman Monica Cummings said a US citizen was killed in the attack, although she had no further details and did not identify the victim.

She said the embassy was in close contact with Afghan authorities and was working to obtain more information.

"Our thoughts are with the families of the victims," she said.

Amar Sinha, India's ambassador to Afghanistan, said he believed at least six of the hostages were Indian citizens.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi's Twitter account said he was "concerned about the situation (and) I pray for everyone's safety".

Canada's foreign affairs spokeswoman Caitlin Workman said all staff at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul were "safe and accounted for".

Hours after the stand-off began, fire trucks arrived at the scene, with firefighters saying they were called in to clear and secure the area. A number of people were seen leaving the building.

The hotel has guest rooms for visitors and a residential area for those who live full time in Kabul, including foreign aid workers.

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