KABUL, Afghanistan – An explosion and several rounds of gunfire went off Monday at a luxury hotel frequented by foreigners in the Afghan capital, and a Taliban spokesman said a suicide bomber and three militants with grenades and guns had attacked the hotel.
An American citizen inside the Serena hotel said she saw a body and pools of blood in the lobby. She said three foreigners had been wounded.
Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told The Associated Press that four militants attacked the hotel – one suicide bomber who blew himself up and three militants who threw grenades and fired guns.
The claim could not be verified but came very soon after the 6:12 p.m. attack.
Other reports said a man carrying an AK-47 rifle was trying to get into the hotel. There was a battle with security guards and the man blew himself up, killing and injuring several of the security guards, according to the reports.
Mohammad Arif, a police officer, confirmed an explosion at the Serena.
It was not clear whether the explosion was inside the hotel or in its large courtyard where the parking lot is located. Police kept journalists and onlookers far from the building.
An American who was exercising in 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 area. She asked not to be identified for her safety.
The explosion happened after Liberal Leader Stephane Dion and party colleague Michael Ignatieff had left Afghanistan after a weekend visit to Kabul and Kandahar.
Vanessa Valentino, an American working in the Afghan capital, was at a meeting at the central bank 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,” Valentino said. “We’re just not leaving the building, and we can’t figure out what’s happened, so we decided to stay inside.”
With files from The Canadian Press.