UPDATED AUG. 19, 11:04 A.M. EDT

KABUL, Afghanistan — For the second time in less than two months, insurgents launched a brazen, complex attack in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital, leading to an hourslong gunbattle, with more than a hundred Afghan security forces pitted against what was reported to be a lone remaining fighter.The incident again raised questions about the capability of Afghan forces to handle their own security in yet another case where it appeared coalition forces had to step in to end a protracted standoff.The attack began just after sunrise Friday when a truck bomb detonated at the gate to the offices of the British Council. Bursts of gunfire ensued, followed by another suicide blast that was heard at least a mile away. Nearly nine hours later, the final attacker was dead, according to witness and police accounts, as was one coalition servicemember. Radio New Zealand later reported: “The New Zealand Defence Force has confirmed that the man was shot in the chest and died on the way to hospital on Friday.”It was a Kiwi special forces team that was credited with helping end a five-hour gunbattle with heavily armed insurgents in a June attack on Kabul’s Intercontinental hotel, less than a mile from the British Council.A coalition spokesman declined to say how many international forces were involved in Friday’s standoff, but at least five armored military trucks, two armored SUVs, two helicopter gunships and two dozen U.S., British and French forces were present throughout much of the morning.“This was an Afghan security forces-led response” with a small coalition support force, said British Royal Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ken Bailes, a coalition spokesman.Afghan forces made up the bulk of the force, and continued to stream slowly in as the day wore on. By 10 a.m., they appeared to number in the hundreds, though many were securing an outer cordon to keep civilians away.“It was kind of a sluggish start, to be honest,” said U.S. Army Maj. Pedro E. Vazquez, an Afghan police mentor, whose team of eight Afghan crime scene investigators was called in nearly two hours after the first blast.An elite Afghan police squad known as “Triple-3,” members of the National Directorate of Security — an organization similar in focus to the FBI — and other special police forces were on the scene as well.Many milled about even as gunshots rang out from the smoldering compound, where the front gate had been reduced to rubble. They were waiting for another attack.“We got word that a Taliban commander is coordinating the effort from somewhere in the vicinity, so we are expecting a secondary hit,” Vazquez said as he stood in the shadow of an armored SUV. “That’s why everybody is kind of a little bit jumpy right now.”Triple 3 was first to enter after militants breached the compound, Vazquez said. Their task was to clear the building of whatever attackers remained.“The good news is the British nationals that were in the compound made it to the safe room, and they’re alive and well in it,” Vazquez said at about 9 a.m.Soon after, a team of British forces, augmented by at least one U.S. soldier, was sent forward to sweep through the building after Triple 3 to search for and retrieve survivors.Britain’s minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, later confirmed in a statement that all British nationals were safe.At about 9:30, the Afghan police cordon at the outskirts of the fracas opened up, allowing hundreds of men and boys in close to the smoldering debris. Then gunfire erupted from within the compound again, and Afghan police screamed at the civilians to again get back.More than five hours later, Afghan police laid the body of what was believed to be the final attacker out on the street.Afghan authorities reported 10 people, mostly Afghan forces, were killed in the incident.Nepalese guards are believed among the dead as well, killed in a standoff with the attackers, who stormed the building shortly after the truck bomb detonated at the council’s gate.“I condemn this despicable attack on the British Council building in Kabul earlier today,” Burt said in his statement. “My thoughts are with those killed and injured and their families and friends, including locals working to protect the British Council building. It is a sad fact that, once again, an attack aimed at the international community has killed Afghans.”The attacks came on the 92nd anniversary of Afghan independence from the British. Afghanistan was never part of the British empire, but British forces did invade the country three times


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