Indian Consulate Burns After Armed Assault in Afghanistan
Three gunmen killed, but reports indicate all diplomatic staff escaped unharmed
An attempt by armed men to storm the Indian consulate in Afghanistan on Friday resulted in a firefight with Afghan soldiers and India security forces that has left at least three people dead and parts of the building burned out from fire and smoke.
According to Reuters, "a handful of heavily armed insurgents, including suicide bombers, launched the rocket propelled grenade and gun attack on the Indian consulate in Afghanistan's western city of Herat hours before dawn."
The Times of India reports that the men appeared to be making an attempt to seize the building and take hostages. Each of the attackers, according to the newspaper, "carried dry fruit packets that could help him survive two-three days. Apart from this each carried one AK-47 gun with under-barrel grenade launcher (UBGL), six magazines, 17 rocket propelled grenades and four hand grenades."
"Had they gained entry, with such massive ammunition, they could have completely destroyed the consulate," a senior security officer with Indian security told the Times.
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.
The consulate was guarded by a team of commandos from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. Afghan security forces form an outer ring, an Indian security official in New Delhi said.
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.
"There were three suicide bombers armed with AK-47, RPG, hand grenade and suicide vests. Our security forces killed all of them. Only five of our security forces were wounded."
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack and no one claimed responsibility, though suspicion would inevitably fall on the Taliban and other loosely associated groups.