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7 die in Taliban attack on US consulate

KABUL — 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 on Friday.

Police said two members of the Afghan security forces were killed, as were five attackers, while the United States said all of its consulate personnel were safe. 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.

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The attack, which also injured several people, underscored the perilous security situation in Afghanistan, where US-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 had been the more peaceful areas.

Friday’s assault followed a day and a half of exceptional joy in Afghanistan, where people of all backgrounds were celebrating their nation’s first international soccer title, with a 2-0 defeat of India in the South Asian Football Federation Championship.

The attack began around 6 a.m. with the powerful blast. The car bomber detonated his explosives around 60 yards from the consulate compound, said Sayed Fazlullah Wahidi, Herat province governor. Militants then began firing on security forces in the area.

Footage broadcast on Afghanistan’s Tolo television network showed rubble strewn in a wide area near the consulate.

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