Jihadists launched a suicide assault that targeted the Indian consulate in the city of Jalalabad today, killing nine people, including children, in the failed attack. No Indian consular oficials are reported to have been hurt in the bombing. From AFP:
Three suicide attackers killed at least nine civilians, most of them children, in a botched attack on Saturday on the Indian consulate in an eastern Afghan city near the border with Pakistan, security officials said.
Police fired on the militants as they approached a checkpoint near the consulate in Jalalabad, prompting one of them to set off their explosives-laden car, said Masum Khan Hashimi, the deputy police chief of Nangarhar province. The blast killed nine bystanders, and wounded another 24 people including a policeman.
All three attackers also died, although it was not clear how many were killed by police fire and how many by the explosion.
While no group has claimed credit for the attack, it could have been carried out by the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, or a host of jihadist groups that operate in eastern Afghanistan. The Haqqani Network is known to have targeted Indian diplomatic facilities with suicide bombings in the past.
In July 2008, a Haqqani Network suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into the front gate of the embassy and killed 54 people, including a senior defense attaché and another senior Indian official. American intelligence agencies confronted the Pakistani government with evidence of direct involvement by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate in that bombing.
Today’s attack takes place as the US announced it would close 21 diplomatic facilities in Muslim countries on Aug. 4 due to intelligence indicating an attack by al Qaeda. It is unclear if the assault on the Indian consulate is related to the closure of the US diplomatic facilities.
The assault on the Indian consulate was conducted just one day after major fighting erupted between Afghan forces and the Taliban in Nangarhar’s districts of Sherzad and Khogyani. Dozens of security personnel and scores of Taliban fighters are reported to have been killed in the clashes yesterday. (Note: Both Afghan security officials and the Taliban are notorious for exaggerating the other side’s casualties.) From Pajhwok Afghan News:
More than 100 people, including policemen, civilians and insurgents have been killed in a new wave of violence in eastern Nangarhar province, officials said Friday.
Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, the governor’s spokesman, told Pajhwok Afghan News 16 militants, including fighters from Pakistan’s Waziristan tribal region, were killed in a fierce clash in Sherzad district.
The firefight, lasting several hours, came after hundreds of guerrillas laid siege to tribal elder Haji Wardak’s residence in the Marakakhel area of the district.
Afghan army and police personnel rescued the elder’s family, while clashing with the assailants, the according to the spokesman, who said: “Sixteen Afghan and foreign rebels were killed.”
Hundreds of militants launched two ambushes on the security personnel as they returned from the site, Abdulzai said, 76 fighters were eliminated in the ensuing clashes.
“Two insurgents were captured alive along with their weapons,” he said, explaining several police pick-ups were damaged as a result of fighting.
One security official, who did not want to be named, revealed 22 policemen were killed, 17 pickups destroyed and 10 cops seized by the assailants. Two senior officers of Khogyani district were also killed, he said.
Haji Wardak claimed his village had been under siege for the past two days, saying he had lost a son to the skirmishes. “We have received information about the killing of two rebel commanders and seven civilians.”
After the security forces left, the fighters returned to the village, the elder said. At least 40 attackers were killed and 60 others wounded in fire exchanges with villagers, he continued.
And here is the Taliban’s report on the result of the fighting, from Voice of Jihad:
The clashes against enemy forces in Sherzad and Khogyano districts on Thursday which carried into 09:00 am today resulted in the enemy forces sustaining heavy losses before being beaten back, officials from Nangarhar province say.
The final enemy toll from the battle includes 84 Arbakis/ANA/ANP and foreign troops killed from which 61 were killed in Khogyano and 23 in Sherzad while 70 others were wounded from which 70 were wounded in Khogyano and 19 in Sherzad.
Officials say that Mujahideen were also able to seize 16 Pk machine guns, 2 RPG launchers, 38 Ak rifles, 4 communication radios and a large amount of other equipment, adding that 4 Mujahideen were also injured by enemy fire and 5 others rewarded with martyrdom (may Allah accept them).
While the outcome of yesterday’s battle is in dispute, one thing isn’t: the Taliban have shown they are capable of massing scores of fighters in Nangarhar and sustaining a fight against Afghan forces for several days.
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