The death toll from a powerful suicide car bombing by the Taliban at the German consulate in the northern Afghanistan city of Mazar-i-Sharif city rose to at least six Friday, with more than 100 others wounded in a major militant assault.
The Taliban said the bombing late Thursday was a “revenge attack” for U.S. air strikes this month in the volatile province of Kunduz that left 32 civilians dead.
The explosion, which tore a massive crater in the road and overturned cars, was followed by sporadic gunfire that reverberated across the usually tranquil city.
“The suicide attacker rammed his explosives-laden car into the wall of the German consulate,” local police chief Sayed Kamal Sadat told Agence France Presse.
The Foreign Ministry in Berlin said all consulate employees were safe and unhurt after the attack.
But seven Afghan civilians were killed, including two motorcyclists who were shot dead by German forces close to the consulate after they refused to heed their warning to stop, said deputy police chief Abdul Razaq Qadri.
A suspect had also been detained near the diplomatic mission on Friday morning, Qadri added.
Local doctor Noor Mohammad Fayez said the city hospitals received six dead bodies, including two killed by bullets.
At least 128 others were wounded, some of them critically and many with shrapnel injuries, he added.
“The consulate building has been heavily damaged,” the German foreign ministry said in a statement. “Our sympathies go out to the Afghan injured and their families.”
A crisis task force was set up in Berlin and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was receiving continual updates, the German foreign ministry spokesman said.
“There was fighting outside and on the grounds of the consulate,” the spokesman said. “Afghan security forces and Resolute Support (NATO) forces from Camp Marmal (German base in Mazar-i-Sharif) are on the scene.”
Afghan special forces have cordoned off the consulate, previously well-known as Mazar Hotel, as helicopters flew over the site and ambulances with wailing sirens rushed to the area after the explosion.
The carnage underscores worsening insecurity in Afghanistan as Taliban insurgents ramp up nationwide attacks despite repeated government attempts to jump-start stalled peace negotiations.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the “martyrdom attack” on the consulate had left “tens of invaders” dead. The insurgents routinely exaggerate battlefield claims.
Posting a Google Earth image of the consulate on Twitter, Mujahid said the assault was in retaliation for American air strikes in Kunduz.
U.S. forces conceded last week that its air strikes “very likely” resulted in civilian casualties in Kunduz, pledging a full investigation into the incident.
The strikes killed several children, after a Taliban assault left two American soldiers and three Afghan special forces soldiers dead near Kunduz city.