NATO HELICOPTERTen Afghan people were killed when suicide bombers and heavily armed Taliban insurgents attacked a hotel frequented by the westerners in the Afghan capital late on Tuesday.

Helicopters from the NATO-led force killed three insurgents in a final rooftop battle. Smoke rose from the roof of the Intercontinental hotel as the sun rose over Kabul after a battle lasting several hours.

At least 10 persons, including hotel staff were killed in the suicide bomb attack. The attack came the night before the start of a conference about the gradual transition of civil and military responsibility from foreign forces to Afghans. The hotel was not one of the venues to be used by the conference or its delegates. It was also a week after Barack Obama announced plans for the initial withdrawal of 10,000 US troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, with another 23,000 to leave by the end of 2012.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said there had been gunfire coming from inside the hotel. One Reuters witness said smoke could be seen rising from the hotel, although no fires were visible. Afghan security forces surrounded the hotel and fire-fighters arrived after the last of the insurgents were killed.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said several fighters from the Islamist group had attacked the hotel. One of the Reuters stated that, one blast was heard at the start of the attack and then three more at least an hour later. Reuter’s television footage showed police firing tracer rounds into the air as other officers moved through the hotel. Power was cut in the hotel and in the surrounding areas after the attack.

Violence has flared across Afghanistan since the Taliban announced the start of a spring offensive at the beginning of May, although Kabul has been relatively quiet. The last major attack on Kabul on a major Kabul hotel used by foreigners was in January 2008, when several Taliban gunmen killed six people in a commando-style raid on the nearby Serena Hotel.

Violence against Afghanistan in 2010 was already at its worst levels since the Taliban were ousted by US backed Afghan forces in late 2001.