A United Nations compound in Herat, Afghanistan was attacked Friday with rocket propelled grenades and gunfire, killing an Afghan police guard and wounding other officers, the U.N. said.
“The attack targeting entrances of the clearly marked United Nations facility was carried out by anti-government elements,” a U.N. statement said.
Deborah Lyons, the head of U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, called the attack “deplorable.”
“[W]e condemn it in the strongest terms,” said Lyons, who is also the secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan. “Our first thoughts are with the family of the officer slain and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured.”
The U.N. statement from the secretary-general reiterated that such attacks against its personnel and facilities were “prohibited under international law and may amount to war crimes.” The statement went on to reiterate the “United Nations commitment to support the government and people of Afghanistan in their efforts to achieve peace and stability.”
The Taliban issued a statement saying the UNAMA compound in Herat was not under any threat.
“It is possible that (UNAMA) guards could have sustained harm in cross-fire due to close proximity of the office to the fighting but it has now been secured as Mujahidin arrived at the scene,” said a tweet by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid.
The United States strongly condemned the attack.
"The United Nations in Afghanistan is a civilian entity focused on supporting peace efforts, promoting the rights of all Afghans and providing humanitarian and development assistance,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement late Friday.
“We reiterate our call for an immediate reduction in violence in Afghanistan, and for all regional actors to encourage the parties to return to negotiations without delay so that the Afghan people can achieve a durable and just political settlement that brings the peace and security they deserve,” Sullivan added.
Intense fighting around the city has been ongoing since late Wednesday. Local officials claimed Thursday that they pushed back a Taliban offensive on Herat and on Karokh, a district 35 kilometers northeast of Herat. It is the first time in 20 years of war that the Taliban has entered parts of Herat.
“We have tanks and military equipment and will fight against the Taliban with strength,” commando force commander Akram Khan told Tolo news, an Afghan news channel.
Tolo also quoted local security officials claiming to kill at least 40 Taliban.
In the last 24 hours, however, the Taliban have again captured large parts of Karokh, as well as another district called Guzara, which is very close to the Herat airport.
Flights to Herat have been suspended for two days.
On Friday, Taliban supporters posted videos on Twitter and other social media showing Taliban fighters with guns outside the headquarters of Karokh district government.
Abdul Razaq Ahmadi, a spokesman for anti-Taliban local armed forces, told VOA that Taliban and Afghan forces engaged in heavy fighting south of the city.
Jailani Farhad, a spokesman for the provincial government, said after several hours of heavy fighting, the situation around Pashtun-Pul was now normal. He also claimed that 150 Taliban were killed in the past 24 hours in the area.
Dr. Arif Jalali, the head of the provincial hospital in Herat, said 21 people were wounded, including two civilians and some were transferred to the regional Herat hospital. He said five bodies, including the body of a U.N. compound guard, were moved to the hospital.