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Karzai Says Herat Attack Targets Afghan, Indian Interests

Afghan security forces take position at the scene of an attack on the Indian consulate in Herat.
Afghan security forces take position at the scene of an attack on the Indian consulate in Herat.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is calling the attack on India's consulate in Herat "an attack on Afghanistan, India, and our shared interests."

He made the remark in a phone call to India's Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi following the assault May 23, in which at least four attackers, including suicide bombers, were killed.

Modi thanked Karzai for the rapid response of the Afghan security forces in containing the attack.

Two Afghan police were reported wounded, while all Indian workers at the consulate escaped unharmed. The consulate building caught fire during the attack.

Afghan officials say a search is under way for other possible gunmen.

No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but New Delhi has previously accused Pakistan's security services of being behind attacks on Indian targets in Afghanistan.

Pakistan condemned the May 23 attack in a statement, saying that "no cause justifies [the] targeting of diplomatic missions."

The latest assault comes only days after India's incoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his May 26 inauguration ceremony in New Delhi.

Friendly Relations

Bilateral relations between India and Afghan President Hamid Karzaiā€™s government in Kabul have been friendly.

India aided the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and is the largest regional provider of humanitarian and reconstruction aid to the country -- with more than $2 billion in projects that include roads and power plants.

India's four consulates in Afghanistan are located in Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kandahar, and Jalalabad.
Afghan Forces Battle Gunmen At Indian Consulate In Herat
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(WATCH: Afghan Forces Battle Gunmen)

Foreign embassies and consulates remain a favorite target of insurgents in Afghanistan, but many are protected by high walls and multiple gates, as well as security forces.

In August 2013, an attempted bombing of the Indian consulate in Jalalabad near the border with Pakistan killed nine people, including six children.

No Indian officials were hurt in that botched attack.

Attacks on the Indian Embassy in Kabul in 2008 and 2009 killed 75 people.

One group known for targeting Indian interests in Afghanistan is Lashkar-e-Taiba, which India blames for the 2008 attack on the Indian city of Mumbai that killed 166 people.

Another is the Haqqani network, which is based in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

Lashkar-e-Taiba has been active in Afghanistan in recent years, often teaming up with insurgent groups that operate in the eastern part of Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan.

In 2010, two Kabul guesthouses popular among Indians were attacked, killing more than six Indians. India blamed that attack on Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Pakistan has alleged that India, its regional rival, uses its consulates and construction projects in Afghanistan as cover for spy operations.

New Delhi vehemently denies that charge.
With reporting by AP, dpa, Reuters, and RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan