3 foreigners among 9 killed in British Council attack
KABUL (PAN): Nine people, including three foreigners, were killed in Taliban's suicide attack on the British Council in Kabul on Friday, when Afghanistan marked its independence from Britain, officials said.
The first blast happened at around 5:30am in the Kart-i-Parwan neighbourhood, where the houses of Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah are located.
Col. Mohammad Zahir, head of the crime investigation department, told Pajhwok Afghan News a second explosion happened 10 minutes later, followed by six small blasts and intense gunfire.
One of the attackers detonated his explosives-packed car in front of the cultural centre, enabling the rest of his associates to enter the compound. A fierce exchange of fire that followed lasted nine hours.
The last attacker was shot dead by police at 2:50pm, Interior Ministry spokesman Ghulam Siddiq Siddiqui told journalists at the scene. Four to five assailants in two cars stormed the building and fought with Afghan and foreign soldiers for several hours.
The dead included two Nepalese Gurkhas, according to the spokesman, who said another 16 people were wounded. Afghan police officials bore the brunt of casualties, Siddiqui added.
A member of New Zealand special forces was reportedly killed in the fighting, but the NATO-led force said: "At this moment, we have no operational reporting about ISAF casualties. The response to the attacks has been entirely Afghan-led …"
However, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key confirmed to media that a member of the country's Special Air Service (SAS) had been killed during Friday's attack on the British Council and said the government was saddened by his death.
Sixteen New Zealand SAS troops were then deployed, and given the task to rescue British Council staff and their bodyguards inside the compound, while Afghan forces were to focus on combating the insurgents, Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, told a news conference at Whenuapai Air Base on Saturday.
The New Zealand soldier was shot in the chest and died on the way to hospital, said General Jones who added no other New Zealanders were injured.
Three British nationals and two Ghurkas were rescued by the New Zealand soldiers, he said.
While running toward the building, nine suicide attackers -- armed with rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and automatic rifle -- fired all around, residents and witnesses said.
In London, Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt condemned the attack as despicable. "My thoughts are with those killed and injured and their families and friends..." he said in a statement. He confirmed that all British citizens were safe.
ISAF helicopters flew over the compound and armoured vehicles were seen down the road in the area. Kabul police spokesman, Hashmatullah Stanikzai, said two policemen and as many municipality workers had been killed.
As usual, the Taliban asserted responsibility for the attack in the heart of the nation's capital. Rebel spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said over the telephone: "Our fighters targeted the British Council, killing dozens of Afghan and foreign soldiers."
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