3 Americans held hostage in Afghanistan after Taliban attack

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Kabul, AfghanistanKABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) — Militants stormed a guest house used by foreigners in Afghanistan’s capital Friday and were holding at least five people there — including three Americans — during a subsequent standoff with police, the country’s deputy interior minister said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility, with a spokesman, Zaillah Mujahid, saying they attacked a location used by foreigners as a church and for converting Afghans to Christianity.

The attack began with a suicide bombing, as an attacker in a car detonated his explosives outside the building, Deputy Interior Minister Gen. Mohammad Ayoub Salangi said. At least three other attackers then stormed the building, he said.

Three gunmen were holding five people in the building: three Americans, one Malaysian and one person from an unspecified African country, Salangi said. The gunmen were engaged in a standoff with police, he said.

One attacker was dead, Salangi said. It wasn’t immediately clear whether that attacker was the suicide bomber. There were no other immediate reports of casualties.

Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai said the Uzbek Embassy and the offices of other organizations are in the area.

This attack comes three days after militants stormed an election commission office in Kabul, killing five people: two police officers, two election commission workers and a provincial council candidate, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry said.

The Taliban, which claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack, vowed to use force to disrupt the April 5 presidential election. The Tuesday attack resulted in a five-hour gunbattle with Afghan security services.

And last week, the Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack on the Afghan capital’s Serena Hotel in which a senior reporter for the Agence France-Presse news agency, his wife and two of his three children were killed. Five others were also killed. The hotel was hosting special celebrations at the time of the attack to mark the eve of the Persian New Year.

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