Kabul :The Islamic State group targeted the Iraqi embassy in Kabul on Monday, with a suicide bomber blowing himself up outside the gates, followed by three gunmen who stormed into the building.
All the attackers had been killed and the compound secured roughly four hours after the assault began, Afghanistan’s interior ministry said, adding that all embassy staff were safe and only one policeman wounded “slightly”.
Earlier, black smoke billowed into the air above the neighbourhood in northwestern Kabul as the sound of gunfire, blasts and ambulance sirens could be heard. Panicked residents, including women and children, could be seen fleeing the area.
The interior ministry said at least four militants had attacked the embassy, beginning with a suicide bomber who detonated his vest at the compound entrance.
“The quick-response police forces arrived in time and evacuated the Iraqi diplomats to safe place. No embassy staff have been harmed, only one policeman was wounded slightly,” a ministry statement said.
The Iraqi foreign ministry in Baghdad said the charge d’affairs was among those evacuated and that it was monitoring the situation with Afghan authorities, without giving further details.
The Islamic State’s propaganda agency Amaq released a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, saying two members “attacked the Iraqi embassy building in the Afghan city of Kabul”.
The embassy is located in northwestern Kabul, in a neighbourhood that is home to several hotels and banks as well as large supermarkets and several police compounds.
“I heard a big blast followed by several explosions and small gunfire,” said Ahmad Ali, a nearby shopkeeper.
“People were worried and closed their shops to run for safety. The roads are still blocked by security forces.”
The attack is the latest to rock Kabul, which is regularly devastated by bomb blasts and militant assaults, often killing many civilians.
The resurgent Taliban claim many of the attacks as they step up their bid to drive out foreign forces with a series of assaults across the country.
But the Islamic State group, recently ousted from the Iraqi city of Mosul, have been expanding their footprint in eastern Afghanistan and have claimed responsibility for several devastating attacks in Kabul.
First emerging in 2015, the group’s local affiliate Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-K), overran large parts of eastern Nangarhar and Kunar provinces, near the Pakistan border, where they engaged in a turf war with the Taliban.