UK

Kabul attack: UK sympathy over NZ soldier death

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Media captionDavid Cameron: "This is a particularly vicious and cowardly attack"

The government has expressed its sorrow at the death of a New Zealand special forces soldier killed during a Taliban attack on the British Council in Kabul.

Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt spoke of his "sincere gratitude" on behalf of the British people.

Gunmen stormed the British Council office in the Afghan capital on Friday, killing at least 12 people.

The Taliban said the attack marked the anniversary of Afghanistan's independence from the UK in 1919.

A suicide car bomb also destroyed the compound wall. The gunmen were all later killed.

In a statement, Mr Burt passed on his condolences to the soldier's family and friends.

"The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has spoken to [New Zealand's] Prime Minister John Key, to pass on our sympathies and to thank New Zealand for the role their special forces played in bringing this dreadful incident to a close," he added.

'Vicious and cowardly'

"Our thoughts are also with the Afghan security personnel who were killed or wounded during the attack."

Mr Cameron previously condemned the "vicious and cowardly attack".

Earlier, Britain's Ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir William Patey, confirmed that all the militants were killed.

He said: "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 in this."

There has been some confusion about the number of people killed in the Kabul attacks.

At least eight Afghan policemen and a New Zealand special forces soldier were killed, officials from both countries said. Three Afghan security guards from UK-based private security firm G4S, which provides protection for the British Council in Kabul, also died.

David Taylor-Smith, from G4S, said six others - three Nepalese former Gurkhas and three Afghans - were injured and paid tribute to the "first-rate efforts" of those defending the compound.

"We will be working with the British Council to review their security requirements as a matter of urgency," he said.

'Shaken but well'

"However, for the moment our efforts will now focus on those killed and injured and supporting their families and friends as much as we can in these tragic circumstances."

The UK Foreign Office said all British citizens were "shaken but well" after being safely removed from the building.

Image caption A former UK special envoy calls plans to transfer security responsibility to Afghan forces "fantasy"

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville, in Kabul, said the attack raised questions about Afghan security forces' ability to cope once Nato troops begin to pull out in the coming months.

"As we watched this battle unfold, I looked up in the sky and saw Nato helicopters giving support to their Afghan colleagues. We saw international troops; the British quick reaction force and New Zealand special forces," our correspondent said.

"We also saw Afghan security forces battling very bravely and fiercely against the insurgents but you did wonder how would they manage if they didn't have all that international support."

Former UK special envoy to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, described British and American plans to leave Afghan forces in charge of security after 2014 as "fantasy", saying they would leave rival parties to "fight themselves to a standstill" in civil war.

'Messy'

"They won't be able to secure Afghanistan unless there is a new political and regional settlement. It is about talking to all the regional powers, it is about talking to all internal factions and bringing them all together in an Afghan-style peace process.

"It will be messy, it will be difficult but the military approach is clearly not working."

One British and one South African teacher were among four residents of the compound who took refuge in a reinforced safe room during the attack, the British Council said.

The British Council is a partly government-funded agency that runs mainly cultural programmes.

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