Afghan troops battle gunmen near Indian Consulate

KABUL -- Afghan troops rappelled from helicopters onto the roof of a four-storey building near the Indian Consulate in a northern city on Monday to drive out gunmen who had attacked the diplomatic mission the night before, officials said.

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The standoff in the northern Balkh province began Sunday night when the attackers tried to storm the consulate and then retreated into the adjacent building.

Munir Ahmad Farhad, the spokesman for the provincial governor, confirmed that Afghan forces had been airdropped onto the building. Sher Jan Durani, the provincial police spokesman, said men armed with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and light weapons had fired on troops from inside the building into the morning hours.

"At least two Afghan security forces were killed in the attack," Farhad said, adding that since the building is close to a residential area, "we are careful to avoid civilian casualties."

Dr. Noor Mohammad Faiz, a local health official, said three civilians and six soldiers have been hospitalized.

Meanwhile, a suicide car bomb attack near the Kabul international airport wounded 19 civilians, including four children and three women, according to Ismail Kawasi a Public Health Ministry spokesman.

The powerful blast, which took place near the military entrance to the airport, shattered windows a half-kilometre away.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed the attack, saying a suicide bomber driving a truck loaded with explosives had attacked a compound belonging to foreigners.

A separate suicide car bomb attack near the airport earlier Monday did not kill anyone except the attacker, said police spokesman Basir Mujahad.

Thousands had gathered to welcome the Afghan national football team on its return from India, where it lost a South Asia championship Sunday night, but they had dispersed by the time the bombs went off.

No group claimed the earlier attack or the assault on the Indian Consulate. The Taliban have carried out similar attacks in the past.

Five bodies of soldiers were meanwhile found on the outskirts of the eastern city of Ghazni, said Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, the deputy provincial governor. He said the five were abducted from a main highway around a week earlier by Taliban insurgents.

This story has been corrected to show that 19 people were wounded in the Kabul attack, not killed.



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