Tale­ban storms Ger­man con­sulate; 4 killed

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MAZAR-I-SHARIF: Tale­ban mil­i­tants stormed the Ger­man con­sulate in the north­ern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, ram­ming its outer wall with a truck bomb be­fore bat­tling se­cu­rity forces in a late-night at­tack that killed at least four peo­ple, of­fi­cials said. The ex­plo­sion, trig­gered by a sui­cide bomber, caused ex­ten­sive dam­age to the build­ing and shat­tered win­dows as far as 5 km away, a NATO spokesman said. A lo­cal doc­tor said the blast and sub­se­quent fire­fight also wounded 120 peo­ple.

No con­sular staff were among the vic­tims, but For­eign Min­is­ter Frank-Walter Stein­meier said Ger­many would re­view its lead role in the in­ter­na­tional mis­sion in north­ern Afghanistan, where vi­o­lence has es­ca­lated sharply dur­ing 2016. Thurs­day’s at­tack also un­der­lines one of the tougher for­eign pol­icy chal­lenges fac­ing US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump when he takes of­fice in Jan­uary. US com­bat op­er­a­tions against the Tale­ban largely ended in 2014, but thou­sands of its sol­diers re­main in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led Res­o­lute Sup­port mis­sion.

The Tale­ban said the at­tack was in re­tal­i­a­tion for NATO air strikes against a vil­lage near the north­ern city of Kun­duz last week in which more than 30 peo­ple, many of them chil­dren, were killed. Heav­ily armed fight­ers, in­clud­ing sui­cide bombers, had been sent “with a mis­sion to de­stroy the Ger­man con­sulate gen­eral and kill who­ever they found there”, the Is­lamist mil­i­tant move­ment’s spokesman, Zabi­hul­lah Mu­jahid, said by tele­phone. Tale­ban forces came close to over-run­ning Kun­duz last month, a year af­ter briefly cap­tur­ing it in their biggest suc­cess in Afghanistan’s 15-year-long war.

Huge blast

The NATO spokesman said at least one ve­hi­cle packed with ex­plo­sives was rammed into the high outer wall sur­round­ing the con­sulate, but au­thor­i­ties were in­ves­ti­gat­ing if a sec­ond car had been in­volved. “The ex­tent of dam­age to the city is huge,” said Ab­dul Razaq Qaderi, deputy po­lice chief of Balkh prov­ince. “This kind of an at­tack, bring­ing a truck full of ex­plo­sives and blow­ing it up in the city, had never hap­pened be­fore. “The city is still re­cov­er­ing from the shock.”

Noor Mo­ham­mad Faiz, the head doc­tor in Mazar-i-Sharif hos­pi­tal, said four bod­ies and 120 wounded, most hurt by fly­ing glass, had been brought to the hos­pi­tal. Qaderi said Ger­man troops had shot two men on mo­tor­cy­cles who did not com­ply with or­ders to stop. Ger­man De­fense Min­is­ter Ur­sula von der Leyen said that in­ci­dent was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated. For­eign Min­is­ter Stein­meier said six peo­ple were killed. All Ger­man con­sular em­ploy­ees were safe and un­in­jured, he added.

Af­ter co­or­di­nat­ing the re­sponse on Thurs­day, the gov­ern­ment’s cri­sis task force was meet­ing again yes­ter­day and would re­view Ger­many’s role in the Afghan mis­sion. “It was only pos­si­ble to de­feat the at­tack­ers and beat them back af­ter fight­ing that oc­curred at the com­pound and in the build­ing,” Stein­meier said. Ger­many, which heads Res­o­lute Sup­port in north­ern Afghanistan, has about 850 sol­diers at a base on the out­skirts of Mazar-i-Sharif, with an­other 1,000 troops com­ing from 20 part­ner coun­tries.

Into the early hours

The ex­plo­sion oc­curred about an hour be­fore mid­night lo­cal time, a spokesman for the Ger­man mil­i­tary joint forces com­mand in Pots­dam said. Wit­nesses re­ported spo­radic gun­fire from around the con­sulate and said the blast had shat­tered win­dows in a wide area around the com­pound. “It was a pre­pared at­tack for which we made all ar­range­ments,” the Tale­ban’s Mu­jahid said. “First a sui­cide bomber driv­ing an ex­plo­sives-laden ve­hi­cle rammed the main build­ing of the con­sulate and that en­abled other fight­ers to move in and kill all the for­eign­ers there.”

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