At least nine civilians including an Agence France-Presse reporter, children and foreigners, including a New Zealander, have been killed in a Taliban attack on a luxury hotel in Kabul, officials say, just weeks before Afghanistan's presidential election.
Four teenage gunmen with pistols hidden in their socks managed to penetrate several layers of security at the Serena hotel, a prestigious venue favoured by foreign visitors to the capital, on Thursday night.
Sardar Ahmad, a 40-year-old journalist in AFP's Kabul bureau, was among those killed along with his wife and two of their three children.
An AFP photographer identified the four bodies at a city hospital and said the family's youngest son was undergoing emergency treatment after being badly wounded in the attack.
The Serena attack was claimed by the Taliban, who have vowed a campaign of violence to disrupt the April 5 poll which will decide a successor to President Hamid Karzai.
One of the civilians killed in the attack was a former Paraguayan diplomat who was in Afghanistan as an election observer, Paraguay's Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga said.
Canada's foreign ministry spokesman said two Canadians were among the victims, while the Afghan foreign ministry said the dead also included two Bangladeshis.
The attack occurred on the eve of Nawroz, the Persian New Year which is a major holiday in Afghanistan, and the hotel was hosting special celebrations.
Taliban leaders earlier this month urged their fighters to attack polling staff, officials, voters and security forces before the election.