Two Afghan guards were killed yesterday when suicide bombers and attackers besieged the office of a logistics company working with foreign forces, near the NATO-led force’s western headquarters.
Western troops were deployed to quash the attack at the offices of Monaco-based international firm ES-KO on the outskirts of Herat city, where NATO soldiers passed control to Afghan forces four months ago.
It happened a few hundred meters from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters in western Afghanistan, which is Italian-led, and Herat’s airport.
The attack raises questions about security in the relatively peaceful province, handed over in July as part of plans for the 140,000 mainly US foreign troops to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
However, in Brussels yesterday, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen insisted its mission in Afghanistan was “moving in the right direction” despite a string of headline-grabbing “spectacular” attacks in recent weeks.
These included a car bomb on Saturday which killed 17 people, including 13 foreigners, in the deadliest single attack on NATO in Kabul in 10 years of war.
One foreign soldier was among five people injured in the latest attack, according to Herat governor’s spokesman Mohayddin Noori.
A reporter saw a wounded Italian soldier being walked away from the scene, but a spokesman for the NATO-led ISAF could not confirm any injuries to its personnel.
Officials said that the attack happened when two suicide bombers detonated a car bomb at the gates of the office, allowing three accomplices to get inside.
“Five attackers were killed along with two guards working for ES-KO company,” Noori told a press conference after the attack finished.
“Five people — one policeman, one ISAF soldier and one intelligence officer along with two other guards of the company — were wounded in today’s attack,” Noori said.
The Taliban, leaders of the decade--long insurgency in Afghanistan since the late 2001 US-led invasion ousted them from power, were not immediately reachable for comment on the attack.
The killings came the day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai told a regional conference in Istanbul that there was no hope for peace in Afghanistan without help from neighbors such as Pakistan, where insurgents have rear bases.
The ISAF spokesman in western Afghanistan, who declined to be quoted by name, said it had provided ground and air support to yesterday’s operation, which took place outside the compound of Regional Command West.
Noori said that ISAF helicopters had been scrambled.
Noor Khan Nekzad, a regional police spokesman, said foreign forces killed the insurgents, but the ISAF spokesman could not confirm this.
One witness, who did not give his name, said he saw several wounded people evacuated after two men with guns and rocket-propelled grenades ran into the office and opened fire.
Attacks on contractors working with ISAF happen relatively frequently in Afghanistan.
ES-KO works at a number of locations throughout Afghanistan and its recent projects have included extending the runway at Herat airport.