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HindustanTimes Fri,29 Aug 2014

World

Attack on Indian consulate in Afghanistan's Herat thwarted, all four gunmen killed
Agencies
New Delhi , May 23, 2014
First Published: 08:57 IST(23/5/2014)
Last Updated: 17:57 IST(23/5/2014)
An Afghanistan National Army (ANA) soldier fires his weapon at the site of a clash between insurgents and security forces on the Indian Consulate in Herat. (AP Photo)

All the four gunmen, who had stormed the Indian consulate in Afghanistan's Herat province early on Friday, have been gunned down, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) chief Subhas Goswami said.

Gunmen armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades had attacked the Indian consulate but no diplomatic staff was injured in the assault.

"One terrorist was killed by ITBP personnel while three have been killed by Afghan forces. The attack has been successfully repulsed," he said.

Goswami also said security at the Indian embassy in Kabul and consulates in Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif and Kandahar besides Herat has been heightened and a high alert sounded to all Indian assets based across Afghanistan.

"We have been on alert. Our sister agencies have been providing intelligence inputs regularly about sabotage activities against us in Afghanistan. We have asked all our units to be on alert and vigilant," Goswami told PTI.

The ITBP, a paramilitary force under the Union home ministry, has recently bolstered its security at all Indian installations in Afghanistan by sending a squad of 80 trained commandos to the country.

A squad of 23 personnel was manning the Herat consulate when it was attacked.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai spoke to prime minister-designate Narendra Modi and assured him that Kabul "will do all to protect Indian missions there".

The external affairs ministry said Modi thanked Karzai for the "efforts of Afghan forces in thwarting (the) attack on India's consulate in Herat".

Modi had, earlier, condemned the attack on the consulate and called the Indian ambassador to Afghanistan Amar Sinha.

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Afghan security forces escort a man away from the scene of an attack on the Indian consulate in Herat. AFP 

"I condemn the attack on our consulate in Herat, Afghanistan. Closely monitoring the situation. I have spoken to the Ambassador as well," he posted on Twitter.

Modi also assured all support to the staff in the country.

In a pre-dawn assault, the gunmen attacked the building which houses the residence of consulate general, Sinha told PTI, adding that there were nine Indians in the mission apart from local Afghans.

One attacker was killed while climbing the wall to enter the premises of the consulate, he added.

The gunmen had opened fire on the consulate from a nearby home, provincial police chief Abdul Sami Qatra told AP.

Gunfire continued into Friday morning.

According to AP, local police spokesman Raouf 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 mid morning on 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.

The MEA had confirmed the attack saying ITBP and Afghan soldiers have repelled the attackers.

"#India's Consulate in Herat, #Afghanistan attacked. Brave ITBP personnel and Afghan soldiers rebut attackers. All safe. Operation underway," Syed Akbaruddin post on Twitter.

"#India-#Afghanistan officials in touch on attack on India's Consulate in Herat. Foreign Secy Sujatha Singh  monitoring situation. All safe," he added.

Watch video: All Indians at Herat Indian consulate safe, says MEA

#India's Consulate in Herat, #Afghanistan attacked. Brave ITBP personnel and Afghan soldiers rebut attackers. All safe. Operation underway.

Herat lies near Afghanistan's border with Iran and is considered one of the safer cities in the country, with a strong Iranian influence.


Herat lies near Afghanistan's border with Iran and is considered one of the safer cities in the country, with a strong Iranian influence.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Herat lies near Afghanistan's border with Iran and is considered one of the safer cities in the country, with a strong Iranian influence.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Attacks on Indian establishments India has previously accused Pakistan's security services of being behind attacks on Indian targets in Afghanistan, and the assault comes only days after incoming prime minister Narendra Modi invited Pakistan's premier Nawaz Sharif to his inauguration ceremony in Delhi next Monday.

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.

Friday's assault against the consulate in Herat is the latest in a long line of attacks against Indian targets in Afghanistan.

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 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.

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An Afghan military personnel patrols at the scene of an attack on the Indian consulate in Herat.AFP 

India has poured $2 billion in reconstruction aid into Afghanistan, and is currently considering its response to requests for further support, including military assistance in Kabul's battle to contain the Taliban insurgency.

India was one of the chief enemies of the hardline Taliban regime which ruled Afghanistan before its ouster in the wake of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Pakistan was the Taliban's main ally and there have been accusations in India that the Pakistani security forces were complicit in previous attacks on its missions in Afghanistan.

The latest attack came as Sharif is still mulling whether to take up the invitation to attend Modi's swearing-in ceremony, in what many hoped would help ease tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Sameer Patil, a national security expert at the Mumbai-based think tank Indian Council on Global Relations, said it was likely that anti-India elements from Pakistan were behind the attack.

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Afghan security forces assist an injured colleague at the scene of an attack on the Indian consulate in Herat. AFP 

"It is likely that by carrying out such violence, anti-India elements in Pakistan may be testing the resolve of India's new government, led by Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi, on terrorism and how he responds to such acts of violence," Patil in a statement.

The violence comes as the Taliban has launched its annual spring offensive promising to step up attacks against Afghan security forces in a bid to undermine the Western-backed government.

Read: Modi condemns Herat attack; says monitoring the situation

The Taliban also have pledged to disrupt voting as Afghans prepare for a second round of presidential elections on June 14.

The first round was relatively peaceful, but no candidate won a majority forcing a runoff vote between the top two candidates -Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.

(With AP, AFP and PTI inputs)


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