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Taliban militants attack US consulate in Afghanistan

Personnel have secured the US consulate in the city of Herat after militants launched an attack in the early morning hours. The western city has generally remained peaceful over the past decade of unrest and occupation.

A suicide car bombing sparked a gunfight between Taliban militants and security forces at the US consulate in Herat early Friday, according to US and Afghan officials. One Afghan guard died in the attack, as did four Taliban fighters. At least 18 people, including civilians, were injured.

"Two attackers detonated their explosives-laden truck at the first entrance of the US consulate at 5:30 a.m. (0100 UTC) in Herat city," Herat province police chief Rahmatullah Safi said.

The US State Department confirmed the battle had ended, but declined to disclose further information about the order of events.

"Full details are not known of the extent of the attack at this point, but the attack is currently over," the department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, also specifying there were no US casualties.

Taliban spokesperson Qari Yousef Ahmadi later claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the group.

Herat, the capital city of Herat province which lies on the border with Iran, has remained relatively stable during the 12 years since western countries invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban.

The attack comes amid a gradual withdrawal of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops in preparation for a halt to combat operations scheduled for 2014. According to ISAF's website, more than two-thirds of troops stationed in Afghanistan as of August 1 this year were from the US.

kms/lw (AP, AFP, dpa)