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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 January 2008, 01:32 GMT
Taleban attack Kabul luxury hotel
US soldiers close to Kabul's Serena Hotel after the attack
The Serena is a five-star hotel
At least six people have died in an attack by Taleban fighters on a luxury hotel in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

A big blast, which the Taleban say was caused by a bomber detonating his explosive jacket, shook the Serena hotel and was followed by shooting.

The dead include a Norwegian journalist and a US citizen as well as a number of security guards.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gah Store was among guests who took refuge in a cellar.

The Norwegian reporter, Carsten Thomassen, 39, worked for the Oslo newspaper, Dagbladet.

US state department officials in Washington confirmed an American had been killed, adding that they were withholding the victim's identity until family had been informed.

'Escaped'

The attack on the heavily guarded hotel happened early in the evening.

map
It was a big bomb and the building was shaking a bit
Anne Lene Dale Sandsten
Norwegian foreign ministry

Taleban spokesman Zadihullah Mujahid told the BBC that four militants had been armed with automatic rifles, grenades and explosives jackets.

One of the four attackers managed to let off his explosives inside the hotel while the others escaped, he added.

Norwegian foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne Lene Dale Sandsten told the BBC News website Norwegian officials had been in a meeting one level down from the reception when they heard shooting and "then a big blast go off one level up".

"We had security people with us and we were told to lie down," she said, adding that one member of the party was injured.

A policeman outside the Serena after the attack
A policeman guarding the Serena after the attack

Suzanne Griffin, a US aid worker who had been in the gym, told the Associated Press news agency the gunfire had been "close enough that plaster came off the ceiling".

"We had to step over a woman's dead body - she was one of the gym people," she added.

A spokesman for the Nato peacekeeping force in Afghanistan said hotel guards had killed one of the attackers before he got inside the building.

An eyewitness, Ghulam Haidar, told Reuters news agency that a guard had been killed.

Deteriorating security

Nato officials say suicide attacks are a sign of the Taleban's weakness after a series of defeats on the conventional battlefield, BBC defence and security correspondent Rob Watson reports.

But Nato and Afghan officials concede that suicide attacks provide spectacular publicity for the insurgents, our correspondent adds.

In December the Taleban carried out two suicide bombings in Kabul, killing 13 people in one attack.

Later that month, a rocket attack near the Kabul governor's residence killed five people.

Security in much of Afghanistan has deteriorated in the past two years as the Taleban have renewed their attacks on Afghan security forces and Western troops.

US-led forces toppled the Taleban government in late 2001.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Aftermath of the bomb explosion



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