One dead, 21 injured in US consulate attack in Afghanistan

US consulate building in Herat, a former hotel
US consulate building in Herat, a former hotel

Taliban militants attacked a US consulate in western Afghanistan Friday, killing an Afghan guard and injuring 21 people including 16 civilians, police said.

“Two attackers detonated their explosives-laden truck at the first entrance of the US consulate at 5:30 am (0100 GMT) in Herat city, injuring four guards of a private security company and two policemen,” said Rahmatullah Safi, police chief of Herat province.

“Following the explosion, three others who were in another vehicle opened fire on the guards,” Safi told dpa.

“One of the injured guards died due to bleeding,” he said.

The three remaining assailants were killed when the police returned fire, he said.

At least 16 civilians were injured by flying glass, according to police.

“The people were sleeping in their houses around the consulate compound and were injured when the strong explosion broke their windows,” said Abdul Raouf Ahmadi, a spokesman for Herat province police.

US Ambassador to Kabul James B Cunningham condemned the attack.

“We are grateful for the quick response of the Afghan and ISAF security forces, who secured the facility and kept our personnel safe,” Cunningham was quoted by a statement, referring to the International Security Assistance Force or ISAF.

He also said that “many Afghan civilians were killed in the attack,” while police said that only one guard was killed.

“The ISAF helicopters were flying over the area to help security forces if needed,” Ahmadi said.

Another police officer said consulate staff were evacuated by helicopter, but Safi denied this, saying the diplomats were safe inside the compound.

Earlier news reports said three security personnel were killed.

The US State Department confirmed the attack, but not the casualties.

“There are no American casualties,” the department’s deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “At this point there may be one wounded contract security member, and there are likely wounded Afghan police, though numbers are unknown.”

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

“A group of martyrdom-seeking mujahideen attacked the US consulate this morning, in which a large number of US troops and local security personnel were killed and parts of the consulate buildings were damaged,” the group’s spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmad said. -dpa