Afghan police have freed 18 hostages and killed two Taliban gunmen who stormed a popular lakeside hotel in Kabul tonight, Reuters reports. But the siege continues and the militants are still holding more captives, and have reportedly killed a hotel guard, officials warned. "Two terrorists have been killed, and we have cleared the second floor of the hotel. We are now clearing the area of the remaining insurgents," said Kabul Police Chief Ayoub Salangi. Assailants were armed with heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Some people trapped inside may have already been "martyred," a senior Kabul police officer said earlier. NATO forces have joined the police in the operation to take control of the hotel, reports the New York Times.
The Taliban took responsibility for the strike at the Spozhmai Hotel, saying foreigners and rich Afghans were having "wild parties" there before tomorrow's religious holiday. The hotel is one of several in the Qargha Lake recreation area, where the wealthy are known to congregate with government officials. Afghan attacks against civilians and US forces have increased in recent days. President Hamid Karzai said attacks are on the rise as coalition troops plan to leave the country in 2014.