KABUL: An explosion targeting the Iraqi Embassy in the Afghan capital was followed by the sounds of gunfire in the area, Afghan police said on Monday, adding that an attack is underway.
Interior Minister Spokesman Najib Danish told the AP that the Iraqi diplomats were safe and had been rescued.
Two police officials speaking on condition of anonymity said that a car bomb exploded outside the embassy, following which gunmen attempted to enter the building, which is located in the centre of Kabul.
It is believed that three gunmen are involved in the attack, added the interior ministry spokesman.
A security source told AFP that a suicide bomber had blown himself up in front of the Iraqi embassy. Civilians are being evacuated from the area as the attack is ongoing, said the official, who declined to be named.
At least four explosions, along with the sounds of gunfire and grenades, were heard by AFP reporters and residents near the city’s diplomatic quarter shortly after 11:00 am.
A column of smoke rose into the air from the blast site, as the area was surrounded by armoured vehicles and a large contingent of police and Afghan soldiers.
A police officer in the area, who identified himself only as Abdullah, said the gunfire was initially intense but was now sporadic.
At least one eyewitness, a store owner who goes by the name of Hafizullah, said that he saw the bodies of two policemen on the ground before armoured personnel carriers and police arrived to cordon off the area.
“The explosion was so strong. I was so afraid,” said Maryam, a woman crying near the site of the attack said. She said she works at the nearby office of Afghanistan’s National Airline Ariana.
The Iraq Embassy is located in a part of the city known as Shahr-e-Now, which lies outside the “green zone” where most foreign embassies and diplomatic missions are located.
The area is heavily fortified with a phalanx of guards and giant cement blast walls. By comparison, the Iraqi Embassy is located on a small street in a neighborhood dominated by markets and businesses.
The militant Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack via its Amaq news agency, saying that two IS terrorists had attacked the embassy. The claim has not been verified as yet.
The attack is the latest to rock Kabul, and comes as the resurgent Taliban intensify their offensive across the country.
A week ago, a car bomb struck the city during morning rush hour, killing at least 26 people in an attack claimed by the Taliban.
But IS, recently ousted from the Iraqi city of Mosul, have been expanding their footprint in eastern Afghanistan and claimed responsibility for several devastating attacks in Kabul.
A recent United Nations report showed that nearly 20 per cent of all civilian deaths in Afghanistan in the first half of 2017 took place in Kabul.
Many of those deaths occurred in a single attack in late May when a truck bomb exploded during the morning rush hour, killing more than 150 people and injuring hundreds.
No group has officially claimed responsibility for that attack, the deadliest in the capital since the United States (US) invasion in 2001.
Nato forces ended their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014.
Since then Afghan troops and police, beset by soaring casualties, have struggled to beat back the insurgents.
The US is considering whether to send thousands more troops to help the beleaguered Afghan forces as the war-weary country is gripped by increasing insecurity. -AP & AFP
Four people, including two bombers of the so-called Daesh group, were killed after the terrorists on Monday morning attacked Iraqi embassy in Kabul in which at least three policemen were also injured after hours of clashes.
Interior Ministry, who first said four attackers were involved, in the evening changed its previous version and said there were only two attackers and both of them were killed by the security forces. And the two remaining killed persons- a man and a woman- were employees of the embassy.
In first the attackers shot injured the guard of the embassy and by tossing a hand grenade paved the way to enter to the embassy building where the two were shot dead after nearly five hours of gun clash by the Afghan Special Forces.
Two of these elite troops were also “slightly” injured Kabul Police Spokesman Basir Mujahid told Afghanistan Times.
All embassy staff, including the ambassador and his deputy, were rescued by the Afghan security forces in first minutes of the attack that began at 11:10am.
Iraqi embassy located in Shahr-e-Naw area of Kabul in a residential neighborhood, nearly two km from Kabul city’s green zone, where most of the foreign entities and diplomatic missions have their offices and heavily being guarded by the security forces.