A suicide bomber targeted the Iraqi Embassy in central Kabul on Monday, followed by gunfire, Afghan police officials said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The Afghan Interior Ministry said the bomber blew himself up at the gate of the embassy, followed by three attackers who stormed into the compound in the Afghan capital.
The ministry condemned the attack as “un-Islamic and inhuman.” Shortly after the attack began, an Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan said it was behind the assault.
Earlier, Afghan officials said a car bomb had started the assault.
The ministry also said Afghan security forces rescued all the embassy diplomats and employees and took them to safety. It said security forces were still trying to ferret out the remaining attackers.
A police officer in the area, who identified himself only as Abdullah, said the gunfire was initially intense but became sporadic. The area was surrounded by armored vehicles and a large contingent of police and Afghan soldiers.
More than an hour later, witnesses reported hearing another powerful explosion and saw black smoke billowing skyward. It wasn’t immediately clear what had caused the latter explosion.
At least one eyewitness, a store owner who goes by the name of Hafizullah — many Afghans use only one name — said he saw the bodies of two policemen on the ground before armored personnel carriers and police arrived to cordon off the area.
“The explosion was so strong. I was so afraid,” said Maryam, a woman crying near the site of the attack said. She said she works at the nearby office of Afghanistan’s National Airline Ariana.
The Iraq Embassy is located in a part of the city known as Shahr-e-Now, which lies outside the so-called “green zone” where most foreign embassies and diplomatic missions are located and which is heavily fortified with a phalanx of guards and giant cement blast walls.
By comparison, the Iraqi Embassy is located on a small street in a neighborhood dominated by markets and businesses.
Both the Taliban and an Islamic State affiliate have previously carried out such attacks in Kabul.
After Iraqi forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition, recaptured the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group earlier in July, the Iraq Embassy had called reporters to its offices in Kabul to express concerns that the local IS affiliate might stage large-scale attacks elsewhere to draw away attention from the militant group’s losses in Iraq.
3 a.m.: Updated to clarify that it was a suicide bomber, not a car bomb, that started the attack.
1:35 a.m.: Updated with the Interior minister saying diplomats were safe.
This article was first published at 1:10 a.m.