HERAT: Four insurgent gunmen launched a pre-dawn attack on India’s consulate in the western Afghan city of Herat on Friday before being repelled by security forces, in an assault highlighting instability as Nato troops withdraw.

There were no casualties among Indian staff but at least one policeman was wounded when the attackers stormed a house close to the consulate and opened fire on the building.

Afghanistan is in the middle of elections to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who has ruled since the fall of the 1996-2001 Taliban government.

“Four Taliban attackers entered a residential house behind the consulate in the early morning,” Mohammad Yousuf Pashtoon, commander of Herat’s paramilitary Quick Reaction Force, said. “Security forces evacuated residents from the building and fought to clear the building.”

The interior ministry said all the insurgents had been killed.

CONDEMNATION: India has been a key supporter of Kabul’s post-Taliban government, and analysts have often pointed to the threat of a “proxy war” in Afghanistan between India and Pakistan.

The Pakistani government issued a swift condemnation of the attack, saying it was opposed to “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations”.

In a statement, the Foreign Office spokesperson said: “No cause justifies targeting of diplomatic missions and it is a matter of relief that no one from the consulate staff was hurt.”

The Taliban did not immediately claim responsibility for the attack.

“One gunman was shot by the ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) while they were trying to breach the consulate,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told the news channel NDTV.

He added that Indian and Afghan security forces had been “successful in rebutting this attack”.

Afghanistan has seen a flare-up in violence ahead of the second-round run-off presidential election on June 14, with 16 policemen killed in a series of attacks in the space of 24 hours earlier this week.

Providing security for the election is a key test for Afghan police and soldiers.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2014

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