published Friday, August 19th, 2011

10 die in twin blasts at British compound in Kabul

Afghan policemen secure the area near a road block formed by security forces on the road leading to the site of an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Aug. 19, 2011. Twin explosions have rocked the residential area on the west end of the Afghan capital, Kabul. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
Afghan policemen secure the area near a road block formed by security forces on the road leading to the site of an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Aug. 19, 2011. Twin explosions have rocked the residential area on the west end of the Afghan capital, Kabul. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
Photo by Associated Press.

AMIR SHAH, Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — A group of suicide attackers stormed a British compound in the Afghan capital on Friday on the anniversary of the country's independence from Britain, triggering a five-hour firefight that killed at least 10 people.

A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the attack on the British Council in the western part of Kabul.

The dead included eight Afghan policemen, a security guard whose nationality was not immediately known and an Afghan municipal worker, according to Kabul police official Farooq Asas. Two of four people wounded in the blasts were not Afghans, he said.

Britain's Foreign Office said all insurgents involved in the attack were killed.

The attack started with one suicide bomber detonating an explosives-laden car outside the British Council while another suicide bomber struck inside the compound, according to Afghan police.

Afghan security forces dispatched to the scene said that at least three insurgents fought from a secure bunker inside the compound with rifles and rocket propelled grenades.

An Afghan policeman named Azizullah said that the insurgents wrestled weapons and ammunition from the guards at the compound. Afghan men often use one name.

In London, the British Foreign Office confirmed that all British nationals were safe following the attack.

"My thoughts are with those killed and injured and their families and friends, including locals working to protect the British Council building," Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said. "It is a sad fact that once again an attack aimed at the international community has killed Afghans."

"It is due to the presence of mind of the staff involved and our good security measures that no British nationals were hurt," he said, adding that the attack would not affect Britain's commitment to Afghanistan.

British authorities would not say how many of their personnel were inside the building at the time of the attack. At one point Afghan police carried a man with a Union Jack patch on his shoulder on a stretcher away from the scene.

The stand-off was still going on five hours after the initial blasts.

Asas, the police official, said he had counted five suicide bombers. One detonated the car outside the compound, one set of an explosion inside while at least three more got inside the compound on foot.

Hours into the battle, two more blasts occurred, part of the building was on fire and smoke covered the areas, according to a reporter for The Associated Press at the scene.

Ambulances and at least one helicopter airlift ferried casualties to hospitals.

The explosions shattered glass windows a third of a mile (half a kilometer) from the site.

Afghan troops led the assault on the insurgents, but NATO troops were on the scene in an advisory role.

The walled compound of the British Council is located in an upscale residential area in west Kabul. It consists of two buildings, one is a two-story building and the is other a single-story structure. The Council focuses on aiding foreign nations with education and building civil society.

Friday's fighting damaged two neighboring high schools and several auto repair and auto parts shops nearby.

While violence continues to rage in many parts of Afghanistan, attacks in the capital are relatively uncommon. In June, 21 people were killed at a Kabul hotel, including nine insurgents, with militants fighting NATO and Afghan troops for five hours with rocket-propelled grenades and suicide bombs.

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