Siege near India’s Afghan consulate ends after 25 hours

WEB DESK: Troops battled Monday to end a 24-hour gun and bomb siege near the Indian consulate in Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif city, after a bloody weekend assault on an air base in India near the Pakistan border.

Separately Monday a powerful car bomb struck near Kabul’s international airport, wounding at least four people just hours after a suicide bomber blew himself up in the same area.

The lethal assaults on Indian targets appear aimed at derailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bold diplomatic outreach to arch-rival Pakistan following his first official visit to Afghanistan last month.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the raid on the diplomatic mission in northern Afghanistan, the latest in a series of assaults on Indian installations in the country.

Gunfights and grenade explosions echoed as commandos battled to flush out militants holed up in a building near the consulate, with powerful provincial Governor Atta Mohammad Noor overseeing the operation.

“The attackers are enemies of Afghanistan who do not want peace,” Noor told reporters.

“We will suppress them as soon as possible.”

But 24 hours after the siege began, security officials said they were proceeding cautiously in the residential area to limit civilian casualties.

An Indian official, who was hunkered down in a secure area within the diplomatic enclave, said all consulate employees were safe.

“We are being attacked,” the official told AFP by telephone from inside the heavily guarded compound soon after the fighting erupted late Sunday evening.

Local police said some consulate employees had been evacuated.

The attack followed a raid over the weekend by suspected Islamist insurgents on an air force base in the northern Indian state of Punjab.

Seven soldiers were confirmed killed in the raid on the Pathankot base, which triggered a 14-hour gun battle Saturday and further firing Sunday.

Source: AFP