Kabul - Heavy gunfire and explosions echoed through an upmarket neighbourhood in Afghanistan's capital late on Tuesday night, as police surrounded a guesthouse popular with foreigners thought to be under attack by insurgents.
The firefight in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighbourhood, which is home to several embassies, sounded to be focused on the Rabbani Guesthouse. It began just after 23:00, with heavy explosions accompanying sporadic automatic weapon fire.
Police could not be immediately reached for comment, though officers could be seen blocking off roads into the area. Police officers later smashed lights throughout the upscale neighbourhood to cover their movements.
Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Aub Salangi said a guesthouse appeared to be the target of the attack, without specifically naming the Rabbani. He said two attackers had been killed and that authorities didn't know how many were involved in the assault.
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The guesthouse, once known as the Heetal Hotel, was damaged in a December 2009 suicide car bomb attack near the home of former Afghan vice president Ahmad Zia Massoud - brother of legendary anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was killed in an al-Qaeda suicide bombing two days before the 9/11 attacks. That 2009 attack killed eight people and wounded nearly 40.
The hotel is owned by the Rabbani family, who include Burhanuddin Rabbani, who served as president of Afghanistan from 1992 until 1996, and current Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes amid intensified fighting across many parts of Afghanistan since the Taliban launched their warm weather offensive a month ago.
Taliban militants attacked a guesthouse days earlier this month in Kabul, killing an American, a British citizen, an Italian, four Indian nationals, five Afghans and two Pakistanis. The United Nations already has documented a record high number of civilian casualties - 974 killed and 1 963 injured - in the first four months of 2015, a 16% increase over the same period last year.
Afghan security forces have been struggling to fend off Taliban attacks since US and Nato forces formally concluded their combat mission at the end of last year.