UK & World News
Afghanistan: Suicide Attack At US Consulate
Taliban militants in suicide vests set off two car bombs outside a US consulate in western Afghanistan, sparking a ferocious gunbattle with security forces.
At least two Afghans, believed to have been security guards, were killed in the attack in Herat, as well as seven of the gunmen.
The US State Department said there were no American casualties, however Afghans and Americans were trapped inside the consulate while fighting raged outside.
US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement that the assault began around 5:30am local time when "a truck carrying attackers drove to the front gate, and attackers - possibly firing rocket propelled grenades and assault rifles - starting firing at Afghan forces and security guards on the exterior of the gates.
"Shortly after, the entire truck exploded, extensively damaging the front gate.
"It appears American and contract security personnel addressed any attackers who managed to enter the compound."
Local security officials said a second vehicle, an SUV, was blown up near the gates shortly after the van.
Several other people were wounded, including four Afghan policemen, and the front gate of the consulate was "extensively" damaged, US officials said.
The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack.
"Our aim for this attack is to show the Americans that they are not safe anywhere in this country," a Taliban spokesman said in a statement emailed to reporters.
Herat, near the Iranian border, is considered one of the least volatile cities in Afghanistan.
But insurgent attacks in Afghanistan are no longer concentrated in the country's south and east. They also occur with greater frequency in the north and west, which have been the more peaceful areas in years past.
US Ambassador James Cunningham condemned the attack and thanked Afghan and Nato troops for their quick response in securing the building and keeping consulate staff safe.
"We are reminded again of the very real human toll exacted by terrorism. The perpetrators of this attack have shed Afghan blood on Afghan soil," he said in a statement.