(MENAFN- Gulf Times) Troops battled yesterday to end an hours-long gun and bomb siege near the Indian consulate in Afghanistan's Mazar-i-Sharif city, after a bloody weekend assault on an air base in India near the Pakistan border.
Separately yesterday a suicide bomber struck near Kabul's international airport, underscoring the worsening security situation in Afghanistan.
The lethal assaults on Indian targets appear aimed at derailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's bold diplomatic outreach to Pakistan following his first official visit to Afghanistan last month.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the raid on the diplomatic mission in northern Afghanistan, the latest in a series of assaults on Indian installations in the country.
Gunfights and grenade explosions echoed as commandos battled to flush out militants holed up in a building near the consulate, with powerful provincial Governor Atta Mohamed Noor overseeing the operation.
"The attackers are enemies of Afghanistan who do not want peace," Noor told reporters.
"We will suppress them as soon as possible."
But nearly 17 hours after the siege began, security officials said they were proceeding cautiously in the residential area to limit civilian casualties.
An Indian official, who was hunkered down in a secure area within the diplomatic enclave, said all consulate employees were safe.
"We are being attacked," the official said by telephone from inside the heavily guarded compound soon after the fighting erupted late Sunday evening.
Local police said some consulate employees had been evacuated.
The attack followed a raid over the weekend by suspected Islamist insurgents on an air force base in the northern Indian state of Punjab.
The spike in violence came about a week after Modi paid a surprise visit to Pakistan, the first by an Indian premier in 11 years.
The Taliban have also stepped up attacks on government and foreign targets in Afghanistan, a year after US-led Nato forces formally ended their combat mission in the country.
Also yesterday, a large explosion struck close to Kabul airport, causing at least 10 casualties near to the area where a suicide bomber blew himself up earlier in the day in the latest in a series of attacks in the Afghan capital over the past week.
A police official said a small truck packed with explosives detonated near Camp Baron, a heavily protected residential compound for civilian technical contractors close to the airport, smashing windows and badly damaging nearby houses.
The official said the blast caused at least 10 casualties outside the gates of the compound. There did not appear to be any inside the compound and there were no immediate details on what numbers of the casualties were killed or wounded.
Medical aid group Emergency, which runs a hospital in Kabul, said it was receiving wounded at its surgical centre.
The latest unrest coincides with a renewed international push to revive peace talks with the resurgent militant movement.
On January 11 Afghanistan and Pakistan are set to hold a first round of dialogue also involving the US and China to try to lay out a comprehensive roadmap for peace.
Pakistan, which wields considerable influence over the Afghan Taliban, hosted a milestone first round of talks in July. But the negotiations stalled when the insurgents belatedly confirmed the death of longtime leader Mullah Omar.
The attack on the consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif was the latest on high-profile Indian targets in Afghanistan.
In 2008 a car bomb at the Indian embassy in Kabul killed 60 people and the facility was again hit by a suicide strike in 2009.
Nine civilians, including seven children, were killed in August 2013 when suicide bombers targeted the Indian consulate in the eastern city of Jalalabad.
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