At least six people have lost their lives and over 100 others sustained injuries in a car bomb attack that targeted the German consulate building in Afghanistan’s northern province of Balkh, officials say.
The attacker rammed his explosives-laden car into the wall of the consulate in the provincial capital city of Mazar-i-Sharif, located some 400 kilometers northwest of the capital Kabul, late on Thursday.
Residents said they heard a “huge” blast as the attack took place. The force of the explosion shattered the windows of nearby buildings.
“The blast was too loud and powerful, which shattered windows, and many civilians were wounded inside their homes,” said Dr. Noor Mohammad Faiz at the Balkh hospital, where the dead bodies were transferred to.
The Taliban militant group later claimed responsibility for the “revenge attack,” which it said was in response to recent US airstrikes that left 32 civilians dead in Kunduz province earlier this month.
There are reports that a fierce exchange of gunfire is underway near the consulate, and that some of the assailants have even managed to gain access to the diplomatic mission.
Taliban militants were removed from power following the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan, but they have stepped up their activities in recent months, attempting to overrun several provinces.
Afghan forces have been engaged in fierce clashes with the Taliban to contain the ongoing insurgency across various parts of the violence-wracked country.
Meanwhile, there are growing concerns that the Takfiri Daesh terror network, which is mainly active in Iraq and neighboring Syria, is seeking to gain a foothold in Afghanistan’s troubled eastern part.
Daesh has reportedly managed to recruit Taliban defectors in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar, which borders Pakistan. The terrorist group has reportedly recruited some 2,500 Afghan members.
The rising violence in Afghanistan comes despite the presence of thousands of foreign troops in the country.