Gunmen armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades attacked the Indian Consulate in western Afghanistan’s Herat province Friday, an assault that injured no diplomatic staff, police said. Indian officials said there had been a threat against its diplomats in Afghanistan, but gave no other details.
At least three gunmen opened fire on the consulate from a nearby home, provincial police chief Abdul Sami Qatra said. Qatra and local police spokesman Raouf Ahmadi said police killed two gunmen.
Gunfire continued into Friday morning. Ahmadi said officers thought there could be a fourth gunmen involved in the fighting as gunfire came from different directions. Police officers surrounding the area had orders to fire carefully due to other residential compounds nearby, Ahmadi said.
By midmorning Friday, the building was ablaze, though it wasn’t clear what started the fire. Gen. Taj Mohammed Jahid of the Afghan National Army said soldiers believed the gunmen had hid in the basement. Jahid said soldiers continued to search for the gunmen.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Afghanistan is experiencing a rise in insurgent attacks as foreign troops plan to withdraw from the country by the end of the year and as the country faces a coming runoff presidential election.
Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, said a deployment of the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police at the consulate held off the assault until Afghan forces arrived. That force is typically responsible for guarding most of India’s roughly 4,000-kilometer (2,500-mile) border with China, much of it running over snowy mountain ranges.
Akbaruddin 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 laborating.
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 U.S. 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 favorite 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 $2 billion 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 continued…