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Briton killed in attack on Afghanistan compound

Six suicide bombers stormed a US compound in northern Afghanistan yesterday, killing at least four people - including one Briton - and wounding several others.

The brazen attack came on the same day that General David Petraeus landed in the Afghan capital to take command of US and international forces fighting the nearly nine-year-old war.

Gen. Petraeus arrived from Brussels where he sought to reassure allies that the war against the Taliban was on track despite rising casualties and problems regaining control over key parts of the country.

The Taliban claimed respons-ibility for the attack, which began about 3.30 a.m. in Kunduz when a suicide car bomber blew a hole in the wall around a building used by Development Alternatives Inc, a Washington-based global consulting comp-any on contract with the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID. The company is working on gov-ernance and community dev-elopment in the area.

At least five other attackers then ran inside the building, killing or wounding security guards and others inside before dying in a gun battle with Afghan security forces who raced to the scene. Afghan authorities said the five were all wearing explosive vests.

Black smoke poured from the windows of the four-storey building. The bodies of the victims were found inside amid rubble, pools of blood and broken glass. Stunned aid workers were led from the scene as Nato troops carried bodies wrapped in black plastic out on stretchers.

Gen. Abdul Razaq Yaqoubi, police chief in Kunduz province, said those killed included an Afghan policeman, an Afghan man who worked as a security guard at the house and two foreigners.

The government said one British national was killed and the other was critically wounded in the attack.

The German foreign ministry said that a German citizen was also killed in the attack.

"It was 3 o'clock in the morning, close to the morning prayer time, when a suicide bomber in a 4x4 vehicle exploded his vehicle," Gen. Yaqoubi said as Afghan national security forces were battling to kill the last surviving attacker. "There is no way for him to escape."

The attack appeared part of a Taliban campaign against devel-opment projects at a time when the US and its allies are trying to bolster civilian programmes to shore up the Afghan government.

On Wednesday, militants rock-eted a base for South Korean construction workers in Parwan province but caused no casualties.

In April, a gunman killed an 18-year-old woman working for Development Alternatives as she left her job in the southern city of Kandahar. Police believed the killing was part of a Taliban campaign against Afghans wor-king for foreign development organisations.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack and called on government authorities to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

He said the militants were trying to impede reconstruction in Afghanistan.

"They don't want the people of Afghanistan to have a pros-perous life," he said in a statement.

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