Wardark was inside the hotel at the time, Bays reported.

The surge in violence is happening as Barack Obama, the US president, weighs the consequences of sending extra American troops to Afghanistan.

General Stanley McChrystral, the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, has presented a number of options, including a maximum of 80,000 troops, another option of about 40,000 and a third scenario with some 20,000, according to US media.

There are more than 100,000 Nato-led troops now stationed in Afghanistan, including nearly 68,000 American soldiers.

Karzai criticised

Obama is being pulled in opposition directions by fellow Democrats and Republicans.

The speaker of the House of Representatives said on Friday that there may not be sufficient political support for additional deployment, especially when Washington has an unworthy partner in Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president.

"How can we ask the American people to pay a big price in lives and limbs, and also in dollars, if we don't have a connection to a reliable partner?" Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, told National Public Radio.

"So, you know, the whole thing is let's not just talk about troops. Let's talk about what is the strategy and what are the resources that are needed in that regard."

In depth


 Karzai in control?
 Blog: Full disclosure for all!
 Blog: An inclusive government?
 Video: Nato raid 'kills Afghan civilians'
 Profile: Hamid Karzai

 Riz Khan: Eight years of war
 Your views: What now for Afghan democracy?

For his part, Robert Gates, the defence secretary, said Washington must tighten control of Afghan aid contracts as a first step towards stemming rampant corruption.

"The reality is that the international presence in Afghanistan has provided a significant influx of assistance dollars in contracts," he said during a trip to Halifax, Canada.

"I think the place to start is the place we have the greatest leverage and that's where we're writing the cheques."

Meanwhile, David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, has been quoted as saying that the Afghan government would be overthrown quickly if Nato troops pulled out of the country now.

"If international forces leave, you can choose a time - five minutes, 24 hours or seven days - but the insurgent forces will overrun those forces that are prepared to put up resistance and we would be back to square one," he told the UK's Guardian newspaper in an interview published on Friday.

At the end of a visit to Kabul for the inauguration of Karzai, Miliband said Afghans were "sad that they need anyone, but they are passionate about the goodness we do, because if we weren't here their country would be rolled over.

"What we have to do is explain to people that the costs of staying are real but they are less than the costs of leaving."

Narrow escape

Miliband's warning came against a backdrop of continued violence across Afghanistan.

In one of Friday's several deadly incidents, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, an ethnic Pashtun ally of Karzai, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt which killed at least five of his bodyguards, police say.

He was travelling north of Kabul when a remote-controlled bomb struck his convoy in Paghman district on Friday evening.

Sayyaf, who became Kabul's representative in parliament in 2005, supported the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance between 1996 and 2001, when the Taliban were toppled.

A Karzai ally escaped an attempt on his life in one of Friday's many attacks [AFP]
This was not the first attempt on his life. Sayyaf has survived at least one other similar attack.

Human Rights Watch, the independent rights watchdog, has accused him of committing war crimes.

Earlier in the day, a suicide bomber killed at least 16 people, including three policemen, in Farah, a province in Afghanistan's southwest, while two roadside bombs killed three others in the east.

The bomber, riding a motorcycle, struck in an area where lorries were being loaded with goods travelling to Herat, police said.

In the day's other violence, three people were killed by a roadside bomb in Khost, according to Wazir Pacha, the province's deputy police chief.