An overnight assault by Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers on a major hotel in the Afghan capital ended with the killing of the attackers by security forces and the deaths of at least 10 civilians.
A manager on duty at the Inter-Continental Hotel spoke to Al Jazeera about Tuesday's attack on the building.
Yusuf Hakimi said that the hotel camera's showed that nine attackers entered the hotel and made their way to the fifth floor of the hotel.
"They entered from behind, through the garden in the back," he said. "They were throwing grenades from there and destroyed two of our ballrooms."
Samoonyar Mohammad Zaman, a security officer for the interior ministry, said the attackers were armed with machine guns, anti-aircraft weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades.
At least three of the civilians who died were hotel staff.
Hakimi said: "One of our security guards, Kaka Sher, the poor guy, was shot on his prayer mat during praying."
Unlike most attacks by the Taliban, the ambush took place late at night.
Heavily armed gunman entered the hotel, a prominent landmark in the capital, at around 2200 local time whilst guests were having dinner.
"They shot our chef, a Pakistani citizen ... He was a very nice guy," said Hakimi.
Reports suggest that a wedding reception was underway in one of the historic hotel's ballrooms.
"The police and army helped the guests evacuate quickly, most of the guests were not harmed. Some got minor injuries," said Hakimi.
Jawid, a guest at the hotel, said he jumped out of a first-storey window to flee the shooting.
"I was running with my family," he said. "There was shooting. The restaurant was full with guests."
After a five-hour long battle between the attackers and Afghan forces, NATO said two of its helicopters fired on and killed three of the attackers on the roof of the hotel.
Sediq Sediqqi, an Afghan interior ministry spokesman, told Al Jazeera that the hotel was plunged into darkness during the raid.
Images of the attack showed smoke and flames rising from the roof of the building.
Taliban claim responsibility
Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the incident in a statement to the media.
He contradicted the official statement on the number of casualities, saying that "dozens of the foreign military advisors and other [members of] US-NATO" were killed.
Mujahid, who called the operation a "success," said that "dozens of the foreign and local top-level officials holding the conference" were killed.
Attacks in Kabul have been relatively rare, although violence has increased since the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader, in a US raid in Pakistan and the start of the Taliban's annual spring offensive.
The Inter-Continental, situated on a hill overlooking Kabul, is a favourite spot for foreigners in Afghanistan and Afghan government officials.
Security transition conference
Guests staying at the hotel included many provincial officials from around the country who were in Kabul for a conference on the security transition from foreign to Afghan forces.
A conference organiser confirmed to Al Jazeera that 30 of their guests, all provincial leaders, were staying at the hotel.
"All our guests were evacuated safely and none were harmed."
The conference went ahead as planned at the presidential palace on Wednesday.
The attack on the Inter-Continental hotel has again raised doubts about the ability of Afghan forces to secure the country, once foreign troops start leaving.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies