Friday, August 19, 2011

Explosions rock British Council in Afghan capital

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Explosions and heavy automatic gunfire were heard hours after five well-armed suicide bombers attacked the British Council in the Afghan capital on Friday, leaving at least eight people dead, officials said.

White smoke billowed from a building in the compound while heavily-armed British and Afghan forces cordoned off the area in the center of the capital, establishing a security perimeter around the buildings.

The attacks occurred inside a well-guarded Kabul neighborhood, leaving at least another 10 people wounded, the Afghan Interior Ministry said.

The British Council is a British government-affiliated body that fosters cultural and academic exchanges in Afghanistan.

The strike, which the Taliban has claimed responsibility for, also coincides with the 92nd anniversary of Afghan independence from Great Britain.

n the first attack, a militant drove a vehicle packed with explosives toward the council's main security gate before detonating the device, according to Afghan police spokesman Hashamap Stanikzai.

The second man then attempted to enter the compound wearing a vest filled with explosives. He also detonated himself, Stanikzai said.

Police say two militants were killed in a firefight with security forces. The other three detonated their explosives.

Gunfire could be heard throughout the incident and military helicopters circled overhead.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack, as did the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

"Initial reports indicate a combination of multiple vehicle-borne and personal-borne (improvised explosive devices) were detonated," a statement from the NATO-led force said.

NATO commander Gen. John Allen pledged to hold "the perpetrators accountable for their actions."

Meanwhile, an embassy spokesman said British government personnel are coordinating with Afghan authorities to secure the area.

The strike occurred not far from the Intercontinental Hotel, the scene of another insurgent attack in June against a high-profile western target.
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