Seven members of the Afghan security forces were killed Wednesday after gunmen attacked the Pakistani consulate in a volatile eastern province, an official said on Wednesday.
Attaullah Khyogani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, said another seven security forces personnel were injured in during the attack, which began when a suicide bomber detonated explosives outside the consulate in the provincial capital Jalalabad.
He said that three attackers had been killed, including the one who had detonated explosives on his body at 9 am. Three civilians were also wounded in the attack, Khyogani said.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack. In an Arabic statement released via Twitter, the group said the attack was carried out by three IS fighters, two of whom blew themselves up by detonating explosive belts. “The attack lasted almost four hours during which the consulate building was destroyed and tens of its employees were killed together with a number of officers from the apostate Pakistani intelligence services,” the statement said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Seddiq Sediqqi confirmed earlier that two police officers had died in the initial explosion near a police car parked outside the consulate.
After the blast, two gunmen entered an empty guesthouse near the consulate, which was quickly surrounded by security forces as a firefight began, he said.
Khyogani said the siege ended when the two gunmen in the guesthouse were killed around 12.30 p.m. local time.
The scene of the attack is close to a hospital and schools as well as the Indian consulate. The schools were evacuated, officials said.
The Pakistani consulate is usually busy during morning rush hour as people queue for visas. The suicide bomber joined the visa queue before blowing himself up, officials said.
An official at the Pakistan embassy in Kabul said all consular staff were evacuated. He spoke on condition that he not be identified as he was not authorized to speak with media.
He confirmed the attack had targeted Pakistan’s consulate, but could not comment on who was responsible.
In Islamabad, foreign ministry spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said Pakistani officials were in contact with Afghan authorities regarding the attack.
Nangarhar is home to a number of insurgent groups and criminal gangs who benefit from the proximity to the Pakistan border. Insurgent attacks are not uncommon in Jalalabad.
The Islamic State group has a presence in province, having fought with Taliban gunmen in recent months to take control of at least four border districts.
The attack comes two days after Islamabad hosted a meeting of representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States to discuss ending the Taliban’s 14-year insurgency.
Pakistan is widely believed to support the Taliban through its security service, though the Pakistani government denies the claim. The Taliban has split in recent months, with the insurgents divided over their support for a peace process.
The attack is the latest in a spate of violence since the start of 2016, which could be a tough year for Afghanistan as insurgents are expected to escalate the violence in order to enter into any peace negotiations from a position of strength.
During the first week of January a restaurant frequented by foreigners in Kabul and a contractor camp on the outskirts of the capital were attacked, and the Indian consulate in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif was besieged for more than 24 hours.