KABUL, Afghanistan (CBS) -- Afghan Taliban gunmen attacked a popular lakeside hotel on the outskirts of the capital late on Thursday night and have taken several people hostage, police said.
Kabul's police chief said on Friday that they managed to free 18 civilians and killed two insurgents but the hotel siege was still continuing.
An unknown number of gunmen, some armed with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, attacked the hotel in Kabul's popular Qargha Lake recreation area triggering a five-hour gun battle.
Nasir Ahmad who lives nearby said his two brothers were at the hotel. "Two of my brothers work at the Spozhmi Hotel. I talked to them on the phone. Thank God they are safe and managed to escape as you see and hear the gunfire is still going on. There was a party in the hotel, I believe," said Ahmad.
The polices said a private party for wealthy Afghans was underway inside the hotel when the attack began. Many guests jumped into the lake to escape the assault
The Afghan Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack, saying wealthy Afghans and foreigners use the hotel, about 10 km (6 miles) from the centre of Kabul, to have "wild parties" in the lead-up to the Friday religious day holiday.
Qargha Lake is one of Kabul's few alternatives for weekend getaways. Restaurants and hotels that dot the shore are popular with Afghan government officials and businessmen, particularly on Thursday nights.
Violence across Afghanistan has surged in recent days, with three U.S. soldiers and more than a dozen civilians killed in successive attacks, mostly in the country's east where NATO-led forces have focused efforts during the summer fighting months.
President Hamid Karzai told a special session of parliament on Thursday that attacks by insurgents against Afghan police and soldiers were increasing as most foreign combat troops prepare to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
A statement by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said Afghan civilians and police were targeted in the attack on the hotel and that it had received reports of an unspecified number of casualties among civilians and police.