KABUL: Afghan security forces exchanged fire with gunmen barricaded in a house near the Pakistan consulate in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Wednesday after a suicide bomber blew himself up, killing at least six people and wounding 11, officials said.
Afghanistan’s Tolo News reported that five policemen guarding the consulate were killed, and three children and a consulate staff member were among those injured.
However, Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah denied this. “All Pakistanis working at the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad are safe. No one has been injured,” he said.
Witnesses said heavy gunfire and a series of explosions could be heard and residents and children from a nearby school had been evacuated.
Officials said three attackers are inside the consulate and a gunbattle between security forces and attackers is ongoing.
Earlier, Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said a suicide bomber had tried to join a queue of people seeking visas to Pakistan and blew himself up after being prevented from entering the building. The nature of the blast could not be independently confirmed.
Local Afghan officials said they were investigating the incident outside the consulate, which is near the Indian and Iranian diplomatic mission. A hospital and schools are also situated in the area which is usually busy during morning rush hour as people queue for visas.
The area around Pakistan consulate in Nangarhar province was sealed off after the attack.
There was no claim of responsibility for the blast in Jalalabad, which is the main trade gateway to the Khyber Pass and Pakistan. Nangarhar province is home to a number of insurgent groups and criminal gangs.
Insurgent attacks are not uncommon in Jalalabad. The militant Islamic State group also has a presence in province.
Pakistan says many Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants, who are separate from but allied with the Afghan Taliban, and are fighting against the Pakistani state, have sought refuge in Afghanistan from Pakistani Army offensives against them in North Waziristan and Khyber tribal regions.
There have been several bomb blasts in Afghanistan over recent weeks at a time when efforts are underway to restart a peace process with the Taliban and ease diplomatic tension between Pakistan and India.