Balkh: Fresh explosions and gunfire were heard as Afghan forces launched their final push to flush out militants holed up inside a building near the Indian consulate in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, hours after they attempted to storm the diplomatic mission.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the raid. Reports said that some six assailants are mounting the attack from a building close to the Indian consulate in Balkh province. The Afghan forces have cordon off the area.
A spokesman for the governor of Balkh province said that two loud explosions were heard even as fierce gunfight between militants and Afghan forces raged.
Afghan authorities said the militants armed to the teeth tried to storm the consulate.
"They faced resistance from the guards and, instead, entered a house about 100 metres from the consulate and opened fire from there," spokesman Muneer Ahmad Farhad said.
He added that some casualties had been reported but initial details were scarce.
Clearing operations in Mazar-i-Sharif is on by special forces, Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Amar Sinha said.
“Heavy fighting going on,” he said, adding that Balkh province’s Governor Atta Muhammad Noor was personally monitoring the situation.
Sinha, in a tweet, said all were safe in the consulate.
An Indian official, who was hunkered down in a secure area within the diplomatic enclave, said all consulate employees were safe and accounted for.
"We are being attacked," the official told AFP by telephone from inside the heavily-guarded compound.
"Fighting is going on," he said soon after the fighting erupted late Sunday evening.
Vikas Swarup, Indian foreign ministry spokesman, also told AFP that no Indian casualties had been reported so far.
Meanwhile, security forces are carrying out door-to-door search in the area and have not ruled out the presence of more attackers.
"The area is completely blocked by our forces," said Shir Jan Durrani, a police spokesperson.
"We are cautiously conducting our clearance operation to avoid any civilian casualties."
Sunday's attack came as Indian security forces were still trying to suppress an assault on an airbase near the border with Pakistan that has killed at least seven military personnel and wounded 20 others.
The attack comes amid renewed efforts to reduce long-standing tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad and restart peace talks with the Afghan Taliban.
Narendra Modi visited Kabul and Islamabad last month, the first visit to Pakistan by an Indian premier in over a decade.
Sunday's attack was not the first time an Indian diplomatic post had been attacked in Afghanistan.
In 2008, a car bomb at the Indian embassy in Kabul killed 60 people and the embassy was again hit by a suicide strike in 2009.
Nine civilians, including seven children, were killed in August 2013 when suicide bombers targeted the Indian consulate in Jalalabad.
In May 2014, gunmen launched a pre-dawn attack on India's consulate in the western city of Herat.
(With Agency inputs)
WATCH: Afghan special forces engage terrorists near Indian consulate in Mazar i Sharif(Afghanistan). https://t.co/4rQ2rk8eNx
— ANI (@ANI_news) January 4, 2016