KABUL: The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for an attack on a Pakistani consulate in eastern Afghanistan yesterday, which Afghan officials said left at least seven members of the security forces dead.
In a statement translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, U.S. monitors of militant groups, the “Khorasan Province of the Islamic State” said three of its “soldiers” attacked the consulate in Jalalabad, capital of the volatile province of Nangarhar, which borders Pakistan. It claimed to have killed “dozens” of consulate staff.
Afghan officials said seven members of the security forces were killed in the attack. Attaullah Khyogani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, said another seven people were injured during the attack, which began when a suicide bomber detonated explosives outside the consulate in the provincial capital Jalalabad and ended with a gun battle between Afghan security forces and militants.
He said that three attackers were killed, including the one who had detonated explosives on his body at around 9 am. The siege ended when the two gunmen, who had taken position in a guesthouse close to the consulate, were killed at around 12.30 pm local time, Khyogani said.
Hazrat Hussein Mashraqiwal, the spokesman for the provincial police chief, said the dead included three police and two intelligence service officers, one each from the army and border police. Seven people were wounded, including three civilians, he said.
It was the first insurgent-style attack on a Pakistan embassy or consulate in Afghanistan, an official at the Pakistani embassy said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media. Pakistani government properties have come under attack in the past during protests by Afghans angry at Islamabad’s perceived support for the Taleban, who have waged war on the Kabul administration for more than 14 years.
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. The embassy official said all consular staff were evacuated.
In Islamabad, the foreign affairs ministry condemned what it called “the terrorist attack” on its Jalalabad consulate and requested a thorough investigation. One official at the consulate was slightly injured by broken glass, it said in a statement. 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 established a presence in the province, having fought with Taleban 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 Taleban’s 14-year insurgency.
Pakistan is widely believed to support the Taleban through its security service, though the Pakistani government denies the claim. The Taleban 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. Further south, in Helmand province, the governor of Gereshk district in the poppy-growing river valley, said that nine police were killed overnight Tuesday in a Taleban assault. Mohammad Ashraf said two others were wounded. He had no further details. Helmand has seen fierce fighting between Taleban and government forces in recent months. Helmand is the source of opium that produces most of the world’s heroin and provides an important funding source for the insurgency. – AP