An armed standoff near the Indian consulate in Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif city has ended after 25 hours, a day after a bloody assault on an air base in India near the border.
Meanwhile, a truck bomb struck a compound housing foreign civilian contractors near Kabul airport on Monday, wounding dozens of people just hours after a suicide bomber blew himself up near the same area.
The lethal assaults on Indian installations to arch-rival Pakistan following his first official visit to Afghanistan last month.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the raid, which left at least one policeman dead and 11 others wounded. Gunfights and grenade explosions echoed as commandos shimmied down a rope from a helicopter on to the roof of a nearby building from where assailants launched the attack on the tightly-guarded compound.
“The clearance operation is over and all three armed assailants have been killed,” government spokesman Shir Jan Durrani said. “We are still doing room-to-room searches. The area is absolutely under government control.”
Provincial governor Atta Mohammad Noor oversaw the operation armed with an AK47, denouncing the attackers as the “enemies of Afghanistan”.
Security officials said the operation was prolonged as commandos proceeded cautiously in the residential area to avoid civilian casualties.
The attack followed a raid over the weekend by Islamist insurgents on an air force base in the northern Indian state of Punjab.
Seven soldiers were confirmed killed in the raid on the Pathankot base, which triggered a 14-hour gun battle on Saturday and fresh rounds of firing on Sunday. Indian troops backed by helicopters searched the base on Monday, with an official saying that the fifth attacker had been gunned down.
The United Jihad Council, a conglomerate of Pakistani proxy militant groups fighting in Indian-controlled Kashmir, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The assault – a rare targeting of an Indian military installation outside Kashmir – threatens to undermine the fragile peace process between the nuclear-armed rivals.
The spike in violence came about a week after , the first by an Indian premier in 11 years. The visit immediately followed a whirlwind tour of Kabul, where Modi inaugurated an Indian-built parliament complex and gave three Russian-made helicopters to the Afghan government.
India has been a key supporter of Kabul’s post-Taliban government and analysts have often pointed to the threat of a “proxy war” in between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan – the historic backer of the Taliban – has long been accused of assisting the insurgents, especially with attacks on Indian targets in Afghanistan.
A Taliban truck bomber struck the outer wall of Camp Baron, a heavily-guarded residential compound for foreign contractors, on Monday wounding 30 people including women and children, Afghan officials said.
The bombing, which was strongly felt across downtown Kabul, occurred close to where a suicide bomber struck earlier in the day, causing no casualties.
On 11 January, 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.