HERAT: An Afghan police guard was killed on Friday when a United Nations compound came under attack in Herat, as fighting raged between government forces and the Taliban on the outskirts of the western city.

Violence has surged across the country since early May when the Taliban launched a sweeping offensive as the US-led foreign forces began a final withdrawal, which is now almost complete.

The Taliban have seized scores of districts across the country, including in Herat province, where the group has also captured two border crossings adjoining Iran and Turkmenistan.

On Friday, the Taliban clashed with government forces on the outskirts of Herat city, the provincial capital, forcing scores of families to flee, residents said, as the militants tightened their noose.

During the fighting the UN’s main compound in Herat came under attack by rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire, a statement issued by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said.

“This attack against the United Nations is deplorable and we condemn it in the strongest terms,” said Deborah Lyons, the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.

“The perpetrators of this attack must be identified and brought to account.” UNAMA said the attack was carried out by “anti-government elements”.

It said, however, that the area where the compound is located was the scene of heavy fighting between the Taliban and government forces.

The Taliban say they will not target foreign diplomats, but have blatantly violated international protocol before.

When the hardliners seized control of Kabul in 1996 they entered the UN compound and abducted the country’s former leader, Najibullah Ahmadzai, who they brutally tortured and murdered.

Two years into their five-year reign, Taliban fighters entered the Iranian consulate grounds in Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998 and killed 10 diplomats and a journalist with the state news agency.

The European Union delegation to Kabul blamed the Taliban for the attack on the UN compound in Herat.

“The Taliban have to account for the crime which will be considered an attack against all of us. It is contrary to all assurances given,” Ambassador Andreas Von Brandt, head of the EU delegation, tweeted. ' Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2021

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