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Afghan authorities say more than 20 people have been killed in a nearly 12-hour assault by Taliban militants on a hotel on the outskirts of Kabul.

Police said the attackers killed at least 18 people, most of them civilians. Officials said all the attackers -- said to number at least four -- were also killed.

Militants armed with heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades attacked the hotel on Lake Qargha late on June 21 and seized hostages.

Police said scores of hostages were freed during the prolonged gunfight.

Taliban militants have claimed responsibility, saying the hotel was attacked because wealthy Afghans and foreigners were using it for "wild parties."

EXCLUSIVE: An eyewitness account of the attack

Interior Ministry spokesman Siddiq Siddique told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan in Kabul that the militants "launched an attack on a completely civilian area where people go for entertainment."

He added that Kabul police had "rescued the majority of the civilians in the area."

"The incident is over and all four terrorists who have come here and launched the attack were killed," Siddique said. "Our investigative team is at the scene."

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said it provided support to Afghan security forces during the standoff, including the deployment of helicopters.

Police said at least one of the attackers detonated an explosive suicide belt.

According to the authorities, the standoff ended when the last of the attackers was killed around mid-day on June 22.

Reports said some hotel guests jumped out of windows to hide from the attackers.

The two-story, lakeside Spozhmai Hotel is said to be a popular place for well-to-do Afghans to spend a Thursday night -- the beginning of the Afghan weekend.

This assault was the latest in a series of militant attacks this week.

On June 20, a suicide bomb attack in the eastern province of Khost left 21 people dead, including civilians and three NATO troops.

On June 21, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said insurgent attacks targeting the country's security forces had increased in recent months as the Afghan government prepares to take responsibility for security when NATO combat troops leave by the end of 2014.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP

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