2 killed, 19 injured in US Consulate attack in Herat
HERAT CITY (PAN): Taliban insurgents unleashed car bombs on a US consulate in this western city of Herat in a major attack that came to an end Friday noon with the death of seven attackers and two Afghan guards, officials said. Another 19, mostly civilians, were injured.
Probably armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles, the attackers stormed a five-star hotel, where the US Consulate is operating, firing and attacking Afghan guards on the exterior of the gates.
Herat Police Chief Gen. Rahmatullah Safi told Pajhwok Afghan News the assailants first detonated an explosives-packed truck at the entrance to the consulate and then blew up another car bomb before a third attacker on foot detonated his explosives inside the compound. Five others attackers then locked in an intense gun battle with security forces, Safi said.
He said the bodies of five assailants were lying at the scene and the remains of two others were found in the detonated vehicles.
The attackers wore uniforms similar to those of the consulate guards, according to the police chief, who confirmed one policeman and one consulate guard had been killed and four policemen and one consulate guard and one interpreter injured in the assault.
Dr. Rafique Sherzai, the regional hospital chief, confirmed receiving 15 injured civilians, including five children, two women and four security personnel -- two guards and two policemen.
The attackers failed to hurt any Americans, but forced the consulate to temporarily shift many of its consular personnel to the embassy in Kabul.
In a statement, US State Department deputy spokeswoman American security personnel were among those responding to the attack.
A US Embassy spokesman in Kabul Robert Hilton said all consulate personnel were safe and accounted for and most of them had been temporarily relocated to Kabul, but some essential personnel stayed in Herat.
Helicopters were seen hovering over the consulate after the operation had ended and two copters were seen landing on the consulate premises.
The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack, with their spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi saying the fighters entered the consulate after blowing up a truck-borne bomb at the gate. He claimed 13 foreign and a dozen Afghan troops were killed after they tried to enter the consulate building.
“We have proved with this attack that the Americans are safe nowhere,” Ahmadi said in a statement issued to Pajhwok Afghan News.
The American consulate lies near two recreation parks and the Herat University. Residents said foreign diplomatic missions should not be operational in congested areas. Last year, the consulate building was partially damaged in a rocket attack.
The coordinated attack that came in the wake of nationwide celebrations after the Afghan soccer team won the South Asian Football Federation Championship on Wednesday, raised concerns about US plans to reduce its presence in Afghanistan ahead of the planned withdrawal next year.
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