KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban militants staged a suicide car bombing and then engaged in a gunfight with security forces near the American consulate in the western Afghan city of Herat early today.
Police said two Afghan security forces were killed, as were five of the attackers, while the U.S. said all of its consulate personnel were safe.
Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban, claimed responsibility on behalf of the militant group, which has often staged combined car bomb and gun attacks in the past.
The attack, which also injured several people, including police, underscored the perilous security situation in Afghanistan, where U.S.-led troops are reducing their presence ahead of a full withdrawal planned for next year. The insurgent strikes are no longer concentrated in the country's south and east, but occur with troubling frequency in the north and west, which have been the more peaceful areas in years past.
Today's attack began about 6 a.m. with the powerful blast. The car bomber detonated his explosives about 65 yards away from the consulate compound, said Sayed Fazlullah Wahidi, the governor of Herat province. Other militants then began firing on security forces in the area.
Footage broadcast on Afghanistan's Tolo television network showed Afghan police dragging away a badly bloodied person from the scene. Rubble and twisted pieces of metal lay strewn in a seemingly wide area near the consulate, the footage showed.
Gen. Rahmatullah Safi, chief of police in Herat province, initially said an Afghan translator who apparently worked for the consulate died in the attack, but later said that victim was more likely a private security guard working at the compound. An Afghan police officer also was killed, while an unclear number of police, guards and civilians were wounded.
Safi said four militants were killed during the assault, as was the suicide car bomber, but the situation was under control about an hour after the start of the attack.
Robert Hilton, a U.S. Embassy spokesman, said he had no information about a translator among the victims and that "all consulate personnel are safe and accounted for."
Herat lies near Afghanistan's border with Iran.