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Afghan rebels attack consulate

| Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 9:30 p.m.
AFP/Getty Images
US military forces walk at the wreckage of a car bomb near the US consulate after an attack in Herat on September 13, 2013. Seven heavily armed Taliban suicide attackers struck the US consulate in the Afghan city of Herat before dawn, setting off two car bombs and sparking a shootout with US forces. AFP PHOTO/Aref KARIMIAref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
Afghanistan security forces assist a police officer wounded during an attack on the U.S. consulate in Herat on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013.

KABUL, Afghanistan — Insurgents detonated a pair of vehicle bombs at a gate of the U.S. consulate in the western city of Herat early Friday, then opened fire with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades before being killed, Afghan and U.S. officials said.

At least two Afghan security guards died outside the consulate building.

More than 20 Afghans were wounded in the attack, including security guards, police and more than a dozen residents of the area, said Gen. Rahmatullah Safi, the Herat province police chief.

No Americans were killed, and all consulate personnel were reported safe and accounted for, according to a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

The assault began before 6 a.m. when seven attackers approached the consulate in two vehicles. Five of the gunmen apparently got out of the vehicles and opened up on Afghan security forces with small-arms fire. One of the vehicle bombs was then detonated near the gate, Safi said. The second rammed into the gate and then exploded, he said.

It was unclear if any of the attackers made it into the consulate compound.

In a statement, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf did not directly address the point, saying only that if any attackers made it past the gate, U.S. security contractors guarding the compound would have handled them.

All the attackers eventually were killed, according to Gen. Muhammad Ayoub Salangi, a deputy minister of interior. The two drivers died in the explosions of their vehicles; the five others were gunned down by Afghan and U.S. forces.

The involvement of U.S. forces in repulsing the attackers made the Herat assault somewhat unusual. Terrorist attacks in Afghan cities in recent months have been handled primarily by Afghan police and soldiers. Even an attack on the NATO base on one side of Kabul's international airport in June was dealt with entirely by Afghan security forces. The only forces in sight from the U.S.-led coalition were a handful of observers who watched how the Afghans performed.

This time, though, U.S. troops joined the fray. Local journalists reported several coalition helicopters over the scene as the fighting raged. Salangi said that U.S. special operations troops had responded to the assault.

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