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At least 18 Killed in Kabul as Taliban Hotel Siege Ends

RIA Novosti

12:46 22/06/2012 MOSCOW, June 22 (RIA Novosti) - Security forces released dozens of hostages from a lakeside hotel near the Afghan capital, Kabul, captured by Taliban militants, ending a 12-hour siege that has left at least 18 people dead, regional media reported.

A group of Taliban insurgents wearing suicide vests and armed with hand-held anti-tank grenade launchers and heavy machine guns stormed the Spozhmai Hotel at the Qargha Lake resort area late on Thursday night, taking several dozen hostages.

Twelve civilians were among those killed in the siege. The dead also included three hotel security guards, one police officer, and the brother of the owner of the resort, Al Jazeera said.

The four attackers have also been killed in a fierce gun battle with Afghan police backed by NATO security forces. The final death toll is yet to be confirmed.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement that the attack was a punishment for "wild parties" held by rich foreigners and Afghans at the hotel.

“Since the hotel has been used by foreigners and their Afghan puppets as an entertainment place, the Mujahidin (holy warriors) of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan attacked it to punish those commiting activities forbidden in Islam,” the statement reads.

The Taliban said earlier on Friday it had killed up to 15 people, but the group claimed no civilians were killed and all the casualties were individuals connected to the government, Al Jazeera said.

The attack is yet another reminder that the Taliban maintain their operational capability despite more than a decade of war mounted by Afghan and international coalition forces against the insurgency. It has also heightened fears that the Islamist group was strong enough to try to return to power in Afghanistan once NATO troops leave the country in 2014.

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