Saturday 7 December 2019

Islamic State claims Pakistani consulate attack in Afghanistan

A man carries two schoolgirls away from the site in Jalalabad. (AP)
A man carries two schoolgirls away from the site in Jalalabad. (AP)

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for an attack on a Pakistani consulate in eastern Afghanistan, which Afghan officials said left at least seven members of the security forces dead.

In a statement translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, US 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.

The siege ended when the two gunmen, who had taken position in a guest house close to the consulate, were killed at around 12.30pm local time, Mr 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.

Pakistani government properties have come under attack in the past during protests by Afghans angry at Islamabad's perceived support for the Taliban, 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.

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.

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 injured by broken glass.

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 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.

PA Media

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