Insight Online News
Kabul, Jul 31 : The main compound of the United Nations office in Afghanistan’s Herat was attacked on Friday with rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire, and at least one security guard was killed and several others injured, the UN said. The attack has been condemned strongly by the US.
The Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a tweet: “The UN compound in #Herat was attacked with Afghan guards killed & injured. No indication of crossfire. The initial assessment is of a deliberate attack by Anti-Governmental Element. Attacks against UN may amount to a war crime.”
No UN personnel was injured in the attack.
While the UN statement only mentions “anti-government elements” as those behind the attack, Tolo News quoting sources said the attack was conducted by the Taliban.
“The attack targeting entrances of the clearly marked United Nations facility was carried out by anti-government elements,” a UN statement said.
Deborah Lyons, the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, called the attack “deplorable.”
“This attack against the United Nations is deplorable and we condemn it in the strongest terms,” said Lyons, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. “Our first thoughts are with the family of the officer slain and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured.”
Lyons added that attacks against UN personnel and compounds are prohibited under international law, and may amount to war crimes.
The attack comes amid intense fighting around Herat since late Wednesday. Local officials claimed that they pushed back a Taliban offensive on Herat and Karokh, a district 35 kilometers northeast of Herat. It is the first time in 20 years of war that the Taliban has entered parts of Herat.
Herat is the second provincial capital the Taliban has raided in the last 24 hours. Taliban fighters entered Lashkargah, the capital of the southern province of Helmand, a day earlier.
The Taliban issued a statement saying the UNAMA compound in Herat was not under any threat.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a tweet that the incident in Herat could have occurred due to crossfire, and claimed that the UN compound was “safe” and had “no problems” after Taliban fighters arrived.
“UNAMA office was located near the battlefield, which may have been damaged by the guards during the war and the reciprocal fire,” Mujahid said on Twitter. “But when the Mojahedin arrived there, the office was safe, they did not have to worry.”
The US strongly condemned the attack.
“The United Nations in Afghanistan is a civilian entity focused on supporting peace efforts, promoting the rights of all Afghans, and providing humanitarian and development assistance,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement late Friday.
He emphasized the need to end the ongoing violence in Afghanistan.
“We reiterate our call for an immediate reduction in violence in Afghanistan, and for all regional actors to encourage the parties to return to negotiations without delay so that the Afghan people can achieve a durable and just political settlement that brings peace and security they deserve,” Sullivan said.
The European Union envoy in Afghanistan, Andreas von Brandt, said the EU condemns the attack on the UN office in Herat “in the strongest possible terms.” “The Taliban have to account for the crime that will be considered an attack against all of us. It is contrary to all assurances given,” Tolo News quoted him as saying.
The attack comes as the US and coalition forces near the end of their withdrawal from Afghanistan, with the Taliban continuing to make rapid advances across the war-torn country.
In April, US President Joe Biden announced a full withdrawal of approximately 3,000 US troops from Afghanistan by September 11. In July, he gave an updated timeline saying the withdrawal would be done by August 31.