7 dead, 11 injured in gunbattle near Pak consulate in Afghanistan

  • Islamic State claims suicide and gun attack, bomber had attempted to storm Pakistani consulate building but was stopped by security personnel
  • Security of Pakistani missions being beefed up, Ghani tells Sharif

A four-hour long gunbattle between Afghan security forces and gunmen holed up near the Pakistani consulate in the eastern city of Jalalabad came to an end after all attackers were killed, Afghanistan’s Tolo News reported.

The self styled Islamic State group claimed the attack in a statement conveyed to Reuters,

Tolo News reported that a consulate staff member, three children and seven police officials are also among those injured, but Pakistani Foreign Office Spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said that all Pakistanis working at the consulate were safe.

An Interior Ministry statement said a “group of terrorists targeted a police vehicle near the Pakistan consulate at 8:50am”, while local officials claim the consulate itself was attacked, Tolo News said.

Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor, earlier said a suicide bomber had tried to join a queue of people seeking visas to Pakistan and blew himself up after being prevented from entering the building.

Witnesses said they heard heavy gunfire and a series of explosions. Three attackers had barricaded themselves inside a house near the consulate and engaged in a gunbattle with security forces, officials said.

Residents and children from a nearby school were evacuated.

Afghan officials sealed off the area around the consulate ─ which is located close to the Indian and Iranian diplomatic missions ─ and said a probe into the attack had been initiated.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani telephoned Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and assured him of further tightening the security of Pakistani missions in Afghanistan.

During their conversation, Ghani expressed deep sorrow over the incident and informed the prime minister about details of the terrorist attack that left seven people dead.

Sharif said that terrorism is a mutual threat to both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Both the leaders expressed resolve to jointly stamp out terrorism from the region.

Earlier, Pakistan strongly condemned and requested government of Afghanistan to thoroughly investigate this incident and bring the culprits to book.

According to a press release issued from Foreign Office, Pakistan also requested Afghan government to share details of the investigation with Pakistani officials.

The Foreign Office confirmed that officials of the Consulate General are safe. Only one official was slightly injured by a broken glass.

The Government of Afghanistan has also been requested to ensure safety and security of Pakistan Missions in Afghanistan and the country’s officials working there.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the blast in Jalalabad which is the main trade gateway to the Khyber Pass and Pakistan. Nangarhar province is home to a number of insurgent groups and criminal gangs.

Insurgent attacks are not uncommon in Jalalabad. The militant Islamic State group also has a presence in province.

Pakistan says many Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants, who are separate from but allied with the Afghan Taliban, and are fighting against the Pakistani state, have sought refuge in Afghanistan from Pakistani Army offensives against them in North Waziristan and Khyber tribal regions.

There have been several bomb blasts in Afghanistan over recent weeks at a time when efforts are underway to restart a peace process with the Taliban and ease diplomatic tension between Pakistan and India.

Delegates from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States met this week to try to resurrect efforts to end nearly 15 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan, even as fighting with the Taliban intensifies.

The blast came ten days after 25-hour gun and bomb siege took place near the Indian consulate in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.