Standoff at Iraqi embassy in Kabul ends with four attackers killed

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One attacker blew himself up and three more were killed after a four-hour standoff, the Afghan interior ministry said

Afghan security personnel arrive at the site of the suicide blast near Iraq's embassy in Kabul (AFP)
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Monday 31 July 2017 13:17 UTC
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Four attackers are dead and one policeman wounded after a suicide attack on the Iraqi embassy in Kabul on Monday, which the Islamic State (IS) group has claimed resposibility for.

Three suicide bombers took control of the building after one attacker blew himself up at the entrance gate. Afghan security forces surrounded the embassy and a four-hour standoff ensued. 

The Afghan interior ministry announced that three attackers had been killed but no word has yet been given on the total number of casualties.

IS claimed responsibility for the attack via its propaganda agency Amaq.

A security official who declined to be named told AFP during the attack that civilians had been evacuated.

One source told local media that the attackers were wearing police uniforms.

At least four explosions, along with the sounds of gunfire and grenades, were heard near the city's diplomatic quarter shortly after 11am (0630 GMT).

Security forces rapidly descended on the area and the sirens of ambulances rushing to the scene could also be heard. A column of smoke rose from the blast site.

Police confirmed at least one blast but said they did not have further information. 

The Iraqi embassy is located in northwestern Kabul, in a neighbourhood that is home to several hotels and banks as well as large supermarkets and several police compounds.

"I heard a big blast followed by several explosions and small gunfire," said Ahmad Ali, a nearby shopkeeper.

"People were worried and closed their shops to run for safety. The roads are still blocked by security forces."

The attack is the latest to rock Kabul, and comes as the resurgent Taliban intensify their offensive across the country.

A week ago, a car bomb struck the city during morning rush hour, killing at least 26 people in an attack which the Taliban claimed responsibility for.

But the Islamic State group, recently ousted from the Iraqi city of Mosul, have been expanding their footprint in eastern Afghanistan and claimed responsibility for several devastating attacks in Kabul. 

A recent UN report showed that nearly 20 percent of all civilian deaths in Afghanistan in the first half of 2017 took place in Kabul.

Many of those deaths occurred in a single attack in late May when a truck bomb exploded during the morning rush hour, killing more than 150 people and injuring hundreds. 

No group has officially claimed responsibility for that attack, the deadliest in the capital since the US invasion in 2001. 

NATO forces ended their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Since then Afghan troops and police, beset by soaring casualties, have struggled to beat back the insurgents.

The US is considering whether to send thousands more troops to help the beleaguered Afghan forces as the war-weary country is gripped by increasing insecurity. 

Kabul has seen a number of deadly assaults this year blamed on either IS or the Taliban.

Security officials said a suicide bomber targeted the area housing a police headquarters and the Iraqi embassy compound. Several other attackers appear to have taken cover in the embassy building.