Jon Boone
London Guardian
August 19, 2011

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With its fortified double set of walls, “airlock” entry system and expensive guards hired from the ranks of retired Gurkhas, the occupants of the British Council compound in Kabul could be forgiven for feeling at times more like prisoners than teachers and cultural ambassadors. The compound, which in happier times hosted top diplomats and Afghan government ministers for the Queen’s official birthday party, typifies how the rise and rise of the Taliban-led insurgency has forced foreign officials to effectively cut themselves off from the country they work in.

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At daybreak on Friday these multi-million pound precautions were not enough to stop the war crashing right into the heart of an organisation which, after years of having a low profile in Afghanistan, had recently received additional funds to greatly expand its work on education, cultural exchanges and helping Afghan civil society groups.

At 5.40am two vehicles laden with explosives and detonating in quick succession made short work of the walls and booms that are meant to keep the outside world away. A handful of heavily-armed suicide attackers then came running from nearby side streets, shouting and firing into the air.

Even before they had got into the compound through the now wrecked front gate the assault had claimed several lives.

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