Explosions and gunshots rang out on Sunday night as unidentified gunmen tried to storm the Indian consulate in northern Afghanistan even as security forces were locked in a gunbattle with suspected Pakistani militants to end the siege of an IAF base in Pathankot.
Amar Sinha, Indian ambassador to Afghanistan, tweeted that all personnel at the consulate were safe.
Consul general B Sarkar also said that all personnel at the consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif were safe and the shooting lasted 20 minute, amid conflicting reports about the strike.”They shot from some adjacent building but nobody could enter the consulate,” Sarkar said.
Sources said two of the four attackers were believed to have been killed but there was no confirmation.
@BDUTT Thanks. All safe. Clearing operations around the consulate ongoing. Senior security officials at site.— Amar Sinha (@SenseandC_sense) January 3, 2016
The latest attack on an Indian asset in the war-ravaged country comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Afghan capital Kabul and neighbouring Pakistan.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup told AFP that no Indian casualties had been reported so far.
“There were gunshots and explosions heard for over 20 minutes on the premises. The external affairs ministry is in touch with both the embassy in Kabul as well as the consulate,” an official said.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack on the consulate, which is guarded by around 40 India-Tibetan Border Police commandos. “ITBP personnel along with Afghan police are retaliating...We are effectively engaged and retaliating along with the Afghan forces posted at the consualte,” ITBP director general Krishna Chaudhary said.
As per protocol, ITBP men cannot operate outside the three-storey consulate building. Outer periphery is manned by Afghan forces.
Insurgents had hidden in a house near the consulate and struck after darkness fell, Muneer Ahmad Farhad, a spokesman for the Balkh province governor said.”Right now our security forces are fighting them,” he said.
It was not certain that the consulate was the target, an Indian official said. “Details are very sketchy at this point in time,” he said.