|Violence has reached its worst levels since the Taliban were toppled by US-backed Afghan forces in 2001 [AFP]
At least two people have been killed after a suicide bomber targeted a hotel and shopping complex in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul.
The Taliban claimed responsibilty for Monday's attack, which also left several people wounded.
Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Kabul, said "panic" and "chaos" followed the attack.
"It took security forces hours to evacuate people trapped inside the complex, because they were worried other attackers were inside the building," she said.
Monday's assault is the first bombing in Kabul since January 28 when a suicide attacker blew himself up at a supermarket, killing at least eight people.
Colonel Baloch Orikhil, director of criminal investigation for the Kabul police, told the Associated Press news agency that initial reports indicated that a suicide bomber detonated a cache of explosives inside the building known as the Safi Landmark.
"We have reports that there was a suicide attack - one person blew himself up - and other insurgents went into the building,'' he said.
Following the blast, the hotel was surrounded by hundreds of Afghan security forces. The blast destroyed the guarded entrance to the building and blew out windows.
Government officials, businessmen and foreigners regularly hold meetings at the Safi Landmark.
The building was heavily damaged a year ago when suicide attackers struck two residential hotels nearby, killing at least 20 people.
After that attack, shops at the centre, which sell jewellery, electronics and clothing, were closed for months.
Violence across Afghanistan in 2010 reached its worst levels since the Taliban was toppled by US-backed Afghan forces in 2001, although the city had enjoyed almost a year of relative calm. That now appears to have come to an end.
In other violent incidents, NATO said on Monday that a homemade bomb killed a soldier in Afghanistan's south, while the UK defence ministry said two soldiers from the Royal Logistic Corps were killed in a fire at Camp Bastion, the main British military base.
The base is northwest of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province.
A total of 14 NATO soldiers have been killed in February alone.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies