EXPLOSIONS AND gunfire erupted just meters from India’s consulate in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif late on Sunday night, as four heavily-armed terrorists attempted to storm the building. Muneer Farhad, a spokesman for Atta Mohammad Noor, the Governor of Balkh province, said two gunmen had been killed, while two more were still exchanging fire with security forces when reports last came in.
Residents living in the Kart-e Zoaruddin area said they heard two loud explosions, followed by several bursts of automatic gunfire, a little after 10 pm Indian time. “We are under fire,” Brajabashi Sarkar, India’s Consul General in Mazar-i-Sharif said.
The attack came even as Indian security forces continued to battle Jaish-e-Muhammad terrorists who struck at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot early on Saturday, just a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Lahore in a surprise peace bid.
Afghan security sources said the attackers retreated into a building owned by local Uzbek politician, Sayed Noorullah Sadat, which is rented out to a United States government-funded aid programme. The building, sources said, had been surrounded by Afghan security forces.
Earlier in the day, Afghans — among them President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, former President Hamid Karzai and National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar — had cheered their team as it played India in the South Asia Football Federation cup, in a show of goodwill between the two countries.
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External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said no Indian casualties had been reported.
The attack is the latest in a series of strikes on Indian diplomatic facilities, stretching back to 2008. In 2014, three suicide bombers sought to overrun the Indian consulate in Herat, and take its staff hostage, in an assault timed to coincide with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in. Afghanistan’s intelligence services, and the US, blamed the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba for the attack.
In August 2013, nine residents, including seven schoolchildren, were killed when suicide bombers sought to strike the Indian consulate in the city of Jalalabad.
— With agencies