The UN’s main compound in Afghanistan has come under attack, causing the death of at least one security guard. The Taliban downplayed the incident, saying the compound was caught in “crossfire” between it and government forces.
Located in the western city of Herat, the United Nations compound came under attack on Friday. At least one Afghan police officer died and several others were injured when the facility’s entrance came under attack by “rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire,” the mission said in a statement. No UN personnel were hurt in the incident.
“The area around Herat where the compound is located witnessed fighting today between the Taliban and government forces. The UN is urgently seeking to establish a full picture about the attack and for this purpose is in contact with the relevant parties,” the statement reads.
The UN, however, avoided blaming the Taliban explicitly for the incident, stating the attack “was carried out by Anti-Government Elements.” Deborah Lyons, the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for Afghanistan, condemned the barrage in the “strongest terms,” stressing that “the perpetrators of this attack must be identified and brought to account.”
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The mission also warned that attacks “against civilian UN personnel and compounds” are explicitly prohibited under international laws and such conduct may amount to war crimes.
The incident was acknowledged by the Taliban; however, it said it had no intention of targeting the compound and the facility merely became caught in “crossfire.”
“It is possible that guards could have sustained harm in crossfire due to close proximity of the office to the fighting,” the militants’ spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said on Twitter.
The spokesman also claimed the area around the UN base had been “secured” by Taliban forces and is now “safe and not under any threat.” The claims about the Taliban capturing the area around the compound have not been corroborated by other sources.
The city of Herat became the second provincial capital entered by Taliban forces over the past 24-hour period. Large rural areas of the province have already fallen into the hands of the insurgents. Just a day earlier, Taliban militants penetrated the city of Lashkargah – capital of the southern province of Helmand – with fighting still ongoing in the city on Friday.
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“Since Thursday morning, the Taliban have launched attacks from several directions on Lashkargah city,” an anonymous Afghan government official told Reuters. The official said the Afghan security forces so far had been able to hold against the Taliban’s push to capture the city.
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