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Militants Storm British Council in Afghan Capital in Deadly Attack

Smoke billows during an attack on offices belonging to the British Council in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 19, 2011.
Smoke billows during an attack on offices belonging to the British Council in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 19, 2011.

Suicide bombers stormed Britain's cultural center in the Afghan capital Friday, triggering hours of fighting that killed at least nine people.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault, that took place on the 92nd anniversary of Afghanistan's independence from Britain.

The sound of gunfire and ambulances filled the morning air in Kabul Friday as a group of attackers rushed the British-staffed building in the Afghan capital.

During the nearly 10-year-old war in Afghanistan, Kabul, has avoided much of the violence that the rest of the country has endured. But this summer has seen the Taliban strike the Afghan capital. In June, a group of suicide bombers and gunmen launched a deadly attack on the luxury Inter-Continental Hotel.

Mohammad Salim Zadaran lives near the British Council building, and says he saw he saw several injured security guards and police. He also says he saw some municipal workers, who happened to be nearby, killed in the blasts. He says the shrapnel spread down the street as far as a hospital in the area.

British authorities say that British nationals took refuge in a "safe room" inside the building as troops repelled the attackers. According to the British Foreign Office, all the British nationals were unharmed.

NATO spokesman U.S. Air Force Captain Justin Blockhoff says coalition troops fought together with an Afghan-led force that rushed to the scene.

"The ISAF support this morning to the attacks in Kabul was in support of the Afghan-led response and it consisted of mentors who are typically with Afghan forces and assist them in their day-to-day training, but also assist them when they go out in response of real world events like the insurgent attacks today, Blockhoff said. "According to our operational reporting, there was a period that involved an exchange of fire with some of the insurgents before they were all killed by the Afghan response."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, NATO and the British government all condemned the assault.

British Ambassador to Afghanistan William Patey said that what he called a "dastardly, cowardly attack designed to attack British interests" had instead caused the deaths of many Afghans