Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, August 2011
10 People Killed in Attack by Two Taliban Suicide Bombers on the British Council in Kabul
August 19, 2011
Taliban attack on British office in Kabul kills at least nine
By Mirwais Harooni
KABUL | Fri Aug 19, 2011 7:11am EDT
KABUL (Reuters) -
Five Taliban attackers laid siege to a British cultural center in the Afghan capital Friday, killing at least nine people during an hours-long assault on the 92nd anniversary of Afghanistan's independence from British rule.
A suicide bomber in car blew himself up in front of the gate of the British Council in Kabul before dawn, and another car packed with explosives detonated moments later while four attackers, three of them men clad in the burqa headcovering worn by Afghan women, stormed the compound, police said.
Scores of Afghan and NATO troops surrounded a compound strewn with wooden and metal debris while two helicopters hovered on watch above as the fighting progressed over at least eight hours, interspersed by a total of eight blasts.
Toward the end, the last of the four attackers who fought into the compound holed himself up in the bulletproof basement of the shattered building. There was only one option left to get him out, authorities said: blow him up.
A Reuters witness heard two big blasts in close succession near the siege's end, around 1 p.m. Kabul time (4:30 a.m. EDT).
"Eight members of the Afghan national police and one foreign soldier were killed," Mohammad Zahir, head of criminal investigations for the Kabul police, told Reuters. He said he was not able to confirm the nationality of the foreign soldier.
A ministry of interior spokesman said at least 16 people were wounded in the attack on the British Council, a state-funded agency running mainly cultural programs. It is not part of the main British embassy in Kabul's diplomatic zone.
Two British nationals and one South African were inside the compound during the attack, but were later rescued by an elite Afghan unit, British Ambassador to Afghanistan Sir William Patey told a press conference.
"This was a dastardly, cowardly attack designed to attack British interests, but ultimately ending in the deaths of many Afghans and we regret the death of the Afghans," Patey said, adding that the attack was over.
Kabul police chief Mohammad Ayob Salongi said four Afghan police, three Nepalese British Council guards and one Afghan street cleaner were killed. He too had no details on the nationality of the foreign soldier.
WARNING TO LONDON
A Reuters photograph taken at the scene showed what appeared to be a white male being lifted onto a stretcher with blood across his back and wound to the back of his head. A second photo showed a Union Jack insignia on his left shoulder, and a different uniform than those warn by council's guards.
"There's no confirmation on whether the foreign soldier who was wounded was killed," Patey said, also declining to reveal the nationality.
The Taliban said they were sending two messages: "One to the Afghan government and one to the British," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters by phone.
"We are now reminding them that we will become independent again from all foreigners, especially from the British," Mujahid said, referring to Afghanistan's independence from British rule 92 years ago, which the country was marking on Friday amid heightened security.
After the United States, Britain has the second-largest force in the NATO-led war against the Taliban, with around 9,500 troops.
Mujahid declined to say how many bombers the Islamist group used for the attacks, which come a month after NATO handed over security responsibilities to the Afghans in several areas across the country, as part of a gradual transition process to be completed by the end of 2014.
Afghan forces have been given responsibility for the city of Kabul since 2008, when NATO handed over security control, but in reality NATO forces still police the area heavily.
There is growing unease in the United States and Europe about the costly and increasingly violent war that has dragged on for 10 years, causing U.S. lawmakers to question whether bringing home all combat troops by 2014 is fast enough.
NATO and the United States earlier this year reluctantly backed Kabul's peace plan, which involves reconciliation with some members of the Taliban. The Taliban have repeatedly said they will not negotiate with the Afghan government until all foreign forces have stopped fighting in their country.
Several killed at British compound after blasts
At least ten people were killed Friday after a coordinated attack on the British compound in Kabul that included at least two suicide bombs and a five-hour battle between Afghan security troops and attackers, officials say.
A coordinated attack Friday on a British compound in Kabul involving two suicide bombers and a five-hour long firefight between Afghan security troops and attackers who penetrated the complex killed at least 10 people, Afghan officials said.
The attack on the British Council occurred as Afghans on Friday celebrated Independence Day, marking the day the country achieved full independence from Britain in 1919.
A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the attack.
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.
The attack started with one suicide bomber detonating an explosives-laden car outside the British Council in west Kabul 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 go by one name only.
In London, the British Foreign Office confirmed that all U.K nationals were safe following the attack on the British Council.
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. Ambulances and at least one helicopter airlift ferried casualties to hospital.
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 bomb.
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