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 Friday. Afghan officials said an Afghan translator was killed, but the U.S. said all of its consulate personnel were safe.
The attack, which 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.
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.
Friday's attack began around 6 a.m. with the powerful blast. The car bomber detonated his explosives around 60 meters (66 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 — it was unclear if he was dead or who he was. 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, said an Afghan translator who apparently worked for the consulate died in the attack, while two police and two private Afghan security guards at the U.S. post were wounded. One police officer was caught under some rubble in the area, and it was not immediately clear if he was killed, Safi said.
An unclear number of civilians also were wounded, Safi said. The governor put the number at seven.
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."
The police chief, who spoke around an hour after the attack started, said the situation was under control and that the gunfire had stopped, but that security forces were searching for militants who may have escaped.
Associated Press writer Nahal Toosi contributed to this report.