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Afghan forces engage in gunfight at India consulate

Special forces are engaged in fighting gunmen barricaded in a house near the Indian consulate at Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan. The attack coincides with a strike at an air base near India's border with Pakistan.

Gunfire could be heard around the

Indian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif,

the capital of Balkh province, on Monday after a small group of gunmen tried unsuccessfully to break into the building the day before. Helicopters hovered overhead and army and police commandos surrounded the area, located in a residential district in the Afghan city.

"The area is sealed off and we are proceeding cautiously and making all possible efforts to protect the lives of those in the area. The attackers will be killed," the governor of Balkh province, Atta Mohammed Noor, said in a Facebook post.

According to provincial spokesman Sher Jan Durani, the armed men shooting at Afghan forces had rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), hand grenades and light weapons. At least one security guard and two attackers died in the firing, Munir Farhad of the local administration told journalists.

"The assailants were not able to penetrate the Indian consulate, and the consulate staff are all safe," he said. The Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Amar Sinha, also tweeted a message, confirming his staff's safety.

No group has claimed responsibility for the strike - yet another in a series of attacks on Indian missions in Afghanistan. In 2014, the Indian consulate in Herat, in western Afghanistan, was hit by heavily armed insurgents, including suicide bombers.

Sunday's attack, which coincided with a

strike on an Indian air base on the border to Pakistan,

comes amid renewed attempts to improve relations between New Delhi and Islamabad. India accuses Pakistan of training militants for insurgency, while Pakistan is suspicious of New Delhi's close ties with Kabul.

mg/se (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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