Jalalabad: Islamic State jihadists on Wednesday claimed responsibility for a deadly gun and bomb siege targeting the Pakistani consulate in Afghanistan's Jalalabad city, in the first attack by the group on the Pakistani government. Afghan officials said all three attackers and seven security forces were killed in the brazen assault in eastern Nangarhar province, where the group has made alarming inroads in recent months.
The four-hour siege near the consulate comes amid renewed international efforts to revive peace talks with the Taliban, locked in a tussle for supremacy with Islamic State jihadists in Afghanistan. In an Arabic statement released via Twitter, the IS group said two of its fighters blew themselves up at the scene by detonating explosive belts, while a third managed to escape unharmed.
"The attack lasted almost four hours during which the consulate building was destroyed and tens of its employees were killed together with a number of officers from the apostate Pakistani intelligence services," the statement said.
The toll appeared to be exaggerated, with Islamabad saying officials at the consulate itself are safe and accounted for. The brazen assault sent terrified young students in an adjacent school fleeing the area, which is also close to the Indian diplomatic mission.
"This is first attack claimed by IS against the state of Pakistan," Muhammad Amir Rana, a Pakistani security analyst, told AFP.
"This is a highly symbolic attack as the Pakistani consulate is a high-profile installation in Jalalabad." There was no immediate comment on the IS group's claim from Islamabad.
In a statement earlier today, Pakistan's foreign office "strongly condemned" the attack on its consulate. "The government of Afghanistan has been requested to thoroughly investigate this incident and bring the culprits to book," the Pakistani government said in a statement.
"We have requested that details of the investigation should be shared with us." Islamabad has officially denied that the Islamic State organisation is operating in Pakistan, but authorities have expressed fears the jihadists could find recruits among the country's myriad of Islamist militant groups.
In May last year, the IS group claimed responsibility for an attack that claimed the lives of at least 43 members of the Shiite Ismaili minority in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi.
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani phoned Pakistan's leader Nawaz Sharif today to assure him of greater security for Islamabad's diplomats in Afghanistan following the attack, according to a statement from the prime minister's office.