Eight die as Indian consulate in Jalalabad is attacked 

Kabul, March 2 (IANS) A policeman and two civilians were killed when militants targeted the Indian consulate in Afghanistan’s Jalalabad city on Wednesday, triggering a fierce gun battle that left all five attackers also dead, officials said. All Indian diplomats were safe.

Nineteen other civilians were injured in the mayhem and admitted to a hospital, Afghan news reports said. Officials said all diplomats and staff at the Indian consulate were safe.

Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province, is often targeted by Taliban militants.

The consulate was attacked earlier in 2013 too by the Taliban. But no one claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack which involved a team of militants armed with weapons and explosives.

The dramatic attack began around noon when a suicide bomber came up to the front gate of the consulate and suddenly detonated his explosives-laden vest, stunning the guards and civilians there.

The aim was to pave the way for the other militants to storm the building, police officer Fazel Ahmad Shirzad told TOLO News.

The explosion, which was heard in a wide area, left two civilians and a policeman dead — and triggered a massive fight as security forces rushed to the area in their armoured vehicles.

Panic gripped the area, also home to the Pakistani and Iranian missions. Civilians fled from the spot.

Journalists reported explosions and gunfire. A shopkeeper near the consulate told journalists that he saw several injured people lying on the ground after a massive blast shattered his windows.

“Four other attackers were killed after half an hour of clashes with the security forces,” the police officer said.

In January, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a deadly gun and bomb siege targeting the nearby Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad, the first major attack by the group in an Afghan city.

The attack comes ahead of direct peace talks this week between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

In January, a gun battle took place near the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad in which at least seven Afghan security personnel were killed.

The Afghan government has been battling the Taliban for over a decade. The Taliban have launched several high-profile attacks in recent months.

In September, the Taliban briefly overran the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, in one of their biggest victories since they were ousted from power in 2001.

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