New Delhi, 23 May-2014, AP/AFP/PTI: 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.
“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.
Herat lies near Afghanistan’s border with Iran and is considered one of the safer cities in the country, with a strong Iranian influence.
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.
“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.
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.