Indian consulate in west Afghanistan under attack, officials say

Reuters News
Posted: May 22, 2014 11:43 PM

By Jalil Ahmad

HERAT, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Four heavily armed insurgents attacked the Indian consulate in western Afghanistan's main city near the border with Iran on Friday, wounding at least two policemen, officials said.

Syed Akbarrudin, a spokesman for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, said on Twitter all personnel were safe and an operation to repel the attackers was underway.

The attack underscored a worrying security picture as Afghanistan prepares to take over from foreign combat troops after more than 12 years of war against a Taliban insurgency and prepares for a presidential election run-off next month.

Herat police chief General Samihullah Qatra told Reuters four attackers, including suicide bombers, had entered houses close to the consulate before dawn and began shooting into the compound.

"Police have already evacuated civilians from houses and now fighting is ongoing," he said.

Mohammad Nasser Pashtun, a commander for Afghan quick reaction forces in Herat, said one attacker was still fighting.

"Two suicide bombers have been killed, one wounded and a fourth is still fighting with security forces," he said.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack and no claims of responsibility have been made so far, although the Taliban and other loosely associated groups often carry out such attacks on Afghan and international targets around the country.

The small consulate in Herat, one of Afghanistan's largest cities, is guarded by a team of commandos from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, with Afghan security forces forming an outer ring, an Indian security official in New Delhi said..

The Herat mission was considered one of India's safest in Afghanistan compared with Jalalabad in the east, which was attacked last year, and Kandahar in the south.

In 2008, suicide bombers attacked the Indian consulate in the capital, Kabul, killing about 50 people and wounding scores.

Security officials in India believe that previous attacks on Indian missions in Afghanistan have been carried out by the Haqqani network, an al Qaeda-linked group that has also long had ties with Pakistan's military intelligence.

U.S. officials and India had also accused Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence of organizing the 2008 attack in Kabul.

Pakistan has long complained about the number of Indian consulates in Afghan cities, fearful that friendship between India and Afghanistan could leave it isolated.

Such fears have been exacerbated by the imminent withdrawal of NATO combat troops, with competition between rival groups vying for influence in Afghanistan becoming fiercer.

(Additional reporting by Jessica Donati and Mirwais Harooni in KABUL and Sanjeev Miglani in NEW DELHI; Writing by Paul Tait; Editing by)