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An attack by the Taliban on a hotel outside Kabul has ended, leaving 17 dead following a siege.

Heavily armed insurgents stormed the Spozhmai hotel near the popular Qargha Lake area on the outskirts of Kabul, triggering a gun battle and taking hostages, Afghan officials said.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the hotel was used by wealthy Afghans and foreigners for 'wild parties'.

Four security guards and six civilians are reported to have been among the victims and the death toll is likely to rise. Five insurgents were also killed by Afghan security forces.

Dozens of hostages were also taken by the militants, including women and children who were later freed by the security forces.

"This is a crime against humanity because they targeted children, women and civilians picnicking at the lake. There wasn't even a single soldier around there," said General Mohammad Zahir, head of the Kabul police investigation unit.

Coalition troops were also reportedly involved in the fight against the militants, who were armed with rocket-propelled grenades and machines guns.

There has been a surge in violence across Afghanistan over the past few days, especially in the east of the country where Nato-led forces are concentrated.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai held a special session of parliament to discuss corruption and security issues.

Nato helicopter hovers above site of attack on Spozhmai hotel outside KabulReuters
Smoke rises from hotel near popular Qargha Lake area on outskirts of Kabul, as Nato helicopters fly overheadReuters
Afghan soldiers arrive at popular recreational areaReuters
Soldiers prepare to fire back at heavily armed Taliban militantsReuters
Afghan soldiers take position near besieged hotel outside KabulReuters
A member of Afghan security trains binoculars on hotelReuters
Afghan soldiers run for cover as siege unfoldsReuters
Afghan soldier stands watchReuters