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Gunmen attack Indian Consulate in Afghanistan

23 May 2014, 07:35

Kabul - Gunmen armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades attacked the Indian Consulate in western Afghanistan's Herat province on Friday, an assault that injured no diplomatic staff, police said.

Indian diplomats said there had been a threat against its diplomats in Afghanistan, but gave no other details.

The three gunmen opened fire on the consulate from a nearby home, provincial police chief Abdul Sami Qatra said. Police killed two of the three gunmen, though one continued to fire on security forces trying to secure the area, Qatra said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Afghanistan is experience a rise in insurgent attacks as foreign troops plan to withdraw from the country by the end of the year.

Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesperson for India's Ministry of External Affairs, said a deployment of their own police at the consulate held off the assault until Afghan forces arrived. He said all Indians at the consulate were safe.

"Our consulate and our diplomatic presence in Afghanistan have been under threat," Akbaruddin told TimesNow TV, without elaborating.

No officials hurt

Herat lies near Afghanistan's border with Iran and is considered one of the safer cities in the country, with a strong Iranian influence. In September 2013, Taliban gunmen launched a similar assault on the US Consulate in the city, killing at least four Afghans but failing to enter the compound or hurt any Americans.

Foreign embassies and consulates remain a favourite target of insurgents in Afghanistan, but many are protected by high walls and multiple gates, as well as security forces.

India has invested more than $2bn in Afghan projects, including roads and power projects. In August 2013, a botched bombing against the Indian Consulate in the Afghan city of Jalalabad near the border with Pakistan killed nine people, including six children. No Indian officials were hurt. Two attacks on the Indian Embassy in Kabul in 2008 and 2009 that killed 75 people.

Groups known for targeting Indian interests include Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was blamed for the 2008 attack on the Indian city of Mumbai that killed 166 people, and the Haqqani network, which is based in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

Lashkar-e-Taiba has been active in Afghanistan in recent years, often teaming up with insurgent groups operating in the eastern part of the country near the frontier with Pakistan. In 2010, two Kabul guest houses popular among Indians were attacked, killing more than six Indians. India blamed that attack on the group.

- AP


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