An all-night siege in Kabul ended in the early hours of Wednesday morning with the deaths of four heavily armed attackers. No civilians or security personnel were injured or killed, according to an Afghan official.
The siege began late Tuesday evening, with numerous explosions accompanied by sporadic automatic weapons fire. The attack appeared to be focused on the Rabbani Guesthouse, which is in the heart of the upscale Wazir Akbar Khan diplomatic district and close to the airport. The area is favored by foreigners.
A paramilitary Crisis Response Unit and police surrounded the area, blocked roads, took up positions on rooftops and parked armored personnel vehicles in the streets around the guesthouse.
For about five hours, gunfire and explosions were sporadic. At dawn, after a lull, there was a volley of sustained gunfire and a number of huge explosions that sent clouds of black smoke into the sky.
The siege ended after 5 a.m. (0000 UTC) in a sustained barrage of automatic weapons fire and a series of huge explosions that resounded across downtown Kabul.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in tweets on a recognized Twitter account. They referred to the target as "belonging to the occupiers," reiterating the insurgents' message that foreign installations are specific targets in the Afghan capital.
Another Taliban attack, on the Park Palace Hotel, in another part of the capital earlier this month left 14 people dead, including nine foreigners.
The United Nations has documented a record high number of civilian casualties - 974 killed and 1,963 injured - in the first four months of 2015, a 16 percent increase over the same period last year.
av/rc (AP, Reuters)