Explosion near US Consulate in Afghanistan

Taliban attack in western Herat province leaves at least 19 people dead

Afghan soldiers walk toward the U.S. Consulate in Herat after an attack for which the Taliban claimed responsibility.
Mohammad Shoib/Reuters

The Taliban claimed responsibility for a car bomb that exploded outside a U.S. consulate in the western Afghanistan province of Herat on Friday, followed by a gunfight between security forces and fighters.

At least 19 people were killed in the attack, including six private security personnel, two interpreters, and nine attackers.

A Twitter post from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said that the consulate was secure after the gun battle and that consulate security had defeated the attackers.

The assailants appeared to be "wearing suicide explosive devices," according to a State Department release. No U.S. nationals have been reported killed.

The attack underscored the perilous security situation in Afghanistan, where U.S.-led troops are reducing their presence before a full withdrawal planned for next year.

The strikes are no longer concentrated in the country's south and east and have increasingly been taking place in the north and west -- the more peaceful areas in years past.

A U.S. embassy spokesman in Kabul declined to comment on the attack.

The attack began around 6 a.m. with a powerful explosion. A car bomber detonated explosives about 60 yards from the consulate compound, said Sayed Fazlullah Wahidi, governor of Herat province. Other attackers then began firing on security forces in the area.

Gen. Rahmatullah Safi, chief of police in Herat province, said that among those killed was an Afghan translator who apparently worked at the consulate, and that two police officers and two private Afghan security guards at the U.S. post were wounded.

One police officer was caught under some rubble in the area, and it was not immediately clear if he had been killed. An unclear number of civilians were also wounded, Safi said. Wahidi put the number at seven.

Safi, speaking an hour after the attack started, said that the situation had been brought under control and that security forces were searching for any attackers who might have escaped.

Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban, claimed responsibility on behalf of the group, which has staged other combined car-bomb and gun attacks.

In January 2010, three rockets were fired at the same consulate, but only one hit the building. No U.S. staffers were inside the building at the time, police said.

The Iranian Consulate in Herat came under attack in early September. At least one person was killed in clashes between police and protesters, and several others were injured.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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