KABUL, Afghanistan — Armed insurgents stormed Kabul’s largest hotel on Saturday, setting off an explosion and sparking a fire, trapping an unknown number of hotel guests inside, Afghan officials confirmed.
There was no information on the number of casualties, as the armed attackers kept authorities at bay.
Military and civilian ambulances stood by at the scene, and helicopters circled overhead hours after the standoff first began around 9 p.m. local time.
“Our special forces are entering the building,” said Gen. Afzal Aman, commander of the Kabul Garrison, an elite unit of police and soldiers that is responsible for security in the capital, who was reached by cellphone at the scene. “The attackers are at one side of the building. There are guests trapped in their rooms. We do not know who are the attackers. There could be two or three of them.”
Najib Danish, the spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, confirmed the attack and said he believed there were two or three attackers in the main building of the hotel, which has hundreds of guest rooms.
“There is a fire on the fourth floor of the building, but it is not clear what caused it,” Mr. Danish said.
Other officials said that the hotel was believed to be full of guests; it generally hosts mostly visiting Afghan government employees and official guests, and is often full.
Shahzad Aryobee, the Minister of Telecommunications, said that 105 employees of his agency were among those trapped inside the hotel.
“I’m here at the scene,” he said, “but the police won’t let us go inside.”
This is not the first time that the popular hotel has been the target of an attack. The Intercontinental Hotel was attacked by insurgents in 2011; 21 people were killed and many others wounded before the Afghan authorities, with substantial assistance from international military forces, managed to bring the attack to an end.
Wahid Majrooh, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said that ambulances were at the scene but that so far none had been able to reach the immediate hotel compound, which is on top of a steep hill.
The hotel was once part of the chain of Intercontinental Hotels, but is now government owned.