Suicide Attack on Kabul Hotel Kills at Least Six

A coordinated attack involving a suicide bomber and at least four other armed militants targeted a luxury hotel in the Afghan capital on Monday, killing at least six people, witnesses said.

A Taliban commander told NPR the rebel militia sent four people, including a suicide bomber who detonated his bomb at the gate of Kabul's five-star Serena Hotel. The attack was followed by an assault on the compound by three others armed with grenades and Kalashnikov rifles.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, who was not hurt, was the target of the assault, which came as the Norwegian embassy was holding a meeting at the hotel. Two State Department officials said at least one American was among the dead. A Norwegian journalist from the Oslo newspaper Dagbladet also died.

The militants killed six people and wounded six, said Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary. He spoke before news of the Norwegian journalist's death, and it was unclear whether he was counted among the six dead.

One of the attackers was shot to death, and a Taliban spokesman said a second died in the suicide explosion.

A witness known to NPR who asked not to be identified said guests ran in towels from the hotel's gym after two explosions occurred within moments — the first one apparently at the hotel's gate.

Although it was not immediately clear if any of the attackers had managed to get inside, the witness said Afghan soldiers and other security forces were searching the hotel compound.

Five ambulances and U.S. troops in Humvees rushed to the hotel. Police kept journalists and onlookers far from the building.

"There were two or three bombs, and there was complete chaos," Stian L. Solum, a photographer from the Norwegian photo agency Scanpix, said on the state radio network NRK. "When I started to walk out (of the elevator) a bomb went off a little way from me. There were shots fired by what I think was an ANA (Afghan National Army) soldier. A Dagbladet journalist was shot and wounded and an American medical team was here and helped him."

In Washington, two State Department officials said that at least one American was among the dead. The identity of the victim was being withheld until family could be notified, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement of the death.

The 177-room Serena is a newly built luxury hotel frequently used by foreign embassies for meetings, parties and dinners. Located in downtown Kabul, it is near the presidential palace though separated by fences, blast walls and checkpoints. It is also near several government ministries and the district police station.

On its Web site, the hotel claims it is an "oasis of luxury in a war-ravaged city."

From NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson and The Associated Press.

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