Gunfire overnight at CIA office in Kabul

Sep 25, 2011, 9:56 p.m.

By Mirwais Harooni

KABUL (Reuters) - There was a brief gunfight at a hotel in Kabul used as a CIA office on Sunday evening, the city's police chief said, but officials are still investigating what had happened in an area with restricted access even for Afghan security forces.

The Ariana hotel is just a few blocks away from the Presidential Palace and the U.S. embassy, in a heavily guarded military and diplomatic enclave almost entirely inaccessible to casual visitors.

Gunfire and a small blast were heard by Reuters witnesses a few hundred meters away late on Sunday.

Kabul Police Chief Ayub Salangi said there had been an incident at the Ariana hotel, which he described as an "office" for the U.S. government's Central Intelligence Agency.

He had no further information. Afghan security forces have only limited access to the area.

The Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. embassy in Kabul declined immediate comment.

But a U.S. official who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the situation confirmed an attack was made against a U.S. facility in Kabul.

Access to the hotel has been restricted at least since the fall of the Taliban government in late 2001. Perhaps because of its proximity to the Presidential Palace, it was used by ruling regimes for years before that.

Two weeks ago, militants launched an assault against the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul.

Top U.S. officials including Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, blamed those attacks on the Haqqani network, a group of Afghan militants based in Pakistan's tribal areas, and said they were supported by Pakistan's spy agency.

Pakistani officials strongly denied any ISI connection to the Haqqani network or the previous attacks on Kabul.

(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

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