Police search Kabul hotel rubble for bomb victims

Police in Kabul were yesterday scrutinising the rubble of one of the city's major hotels after an assault by Taliban suicide bombers left at least 10 people dead, and raised fresh concerns over Barack Obama's plans to begin a phased withdrawal of US combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

The militants, who were armed with rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons, stormed into the hotel and made their way into the ballroom. Witnesses said some attackers carried tape recorders playing Taliban war songs.

As the militants started shooting and setting off explosions, guests jumped from second and third floors to escape the assault, one of the receptionists at the hotel told Reuters. A number of foreign guests were subsequently driven away in diplomatic vehicles.

Some of the militants were killed by a Nato helicopter that engaged them in a dramatic battle on the rooftop of the Intercontinental hotel, which is often frequented by foreigners and local VIPs.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told Reuters that several fighters had attacked the hotel and claimed heavy casualties had been inflicted. Officials said two policemen were among the dead.