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Blast, gunfire at Kabul’s luxury hotel

world Updated: Jan 15, 2008 02:39 IST

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An explosion and several rounds of gunfire went off Monday at a luxury Kabul hotel frequented by foreigners, and a Taliban spokesman said one suicide bomber and three militants with grenades and gunfire attacked the hotel. An American citizen inside the hotel said she believed she saw a dead body and pools of blood in the lobby. She said three foreigners had been wounded.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said four militants with suicide vests attacked the hotel — one suicide bomber who exploded himself, and three militants who threw grenades, fired guns then fled. The claim could not be verified but came very soon after the 6:12 p.m. attack.

Ambulances and US troops in Humvees rushed to the hotel after the attack. Police kept journalists and onlookers far from the building.

The American, who had been exercising at the hotel gym, said she heard gunfire after the explosion, and saw a body and pools of blood in the lobby area and bullet marks in the gym. She said three foreigners had been wounded. She asked not to be identified for her safety.

The Serena is a recently opened luxury hotel frequently used by foreign embassies for meetings, parties and dinsners. Visiting Westerners often stay or eat dinner there.

Vanessa Valentino, an American working in the Afghan capital, was at a meeting at the central bank building around the corner when she heard a series of explosions and gunfire.

Valentino described an explosion faraway, then gunfire, another distant explosion followed by a large explosion very close _ all within a couple of minutes.

"I think it shook the building," she said. "We're just not leaving the building, and we can't figure out what's happened, so we decided to stay inside."