ISLAMABAD - Germany said Friday that all of the employees at its consulate in northern Afghanistan were unhurt and accounted for, following an overnight Taliban suicide assault on the diplomatic facility.
The bomb-and-gun attack in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif left at least six civilians dead and wounded around 130 others, mostly civilians, according to hospital officials.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed his condolences to the victims. An official statement quoted him as saying that "all German and Afghan employees of the consulate remained unharmed.”
A group of heavily armed Taliban suicide bombers staged the coordinated attack shortly before midnight on Thursday, detonating an explosives-packed vehicle in the vicinity of German Consulate.
The massive blast blew apart a protective barrier around the consulate, shaking buildings and damaging more than 100 homes and shops around the diplomatic mission, said the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) while condemning the violence.
It added that most of the injured suffered minor wounds from broken glass while those with serious injuries remain hospitalized.
"Attacks deliberately targeting the civilian population and violence aimed at spreading terror among civilians may amount to war crimes under customary international humanitarian law," said UNAMA.
Taliban assailants fought their way into the building during an intense gun battle that lasted for hours before Afghan and NATO troops ended the siege and secured the building and evacuated consulate staff.
A spokesman for the Islamist insurgency in Afghanistan instantly claimed responsibility.
The Taliban said their assault was a "revenge attack" to retaliate for an airstrike earlier this month in neighboring Kunduz province. The insurgents said a bombing run by U.S. warplanes killed 32 civilians, including a number of children.
The airstrikes have triggered impassioned demonstrations in nearby Kunduz city, with victims' relatives displaying mutilated bodies of dead children in a parade of trucks through the streets.
U.S. authorities are investigating the circumstances of the airstrike, but they have said it "very likely" was carried out by American warplanes. The air raid came after a Taliban assault that killed two American soldiers and three members of Afghan special forces.
Germany has 983 soldiers serving with NATO’s Resolute Support military mission in Afghanistan, most of them stationed in Balkh province, of which Mazar-i-Sharif is the capital.
The foreign coalition in a statement said it rapidly deployed its quick reaction force and assisted in efforts to safely evacuate all 21 staff members of the German consulate.
"This attack by the Taliban once again shows that they use violence indiscriminately and without regard for the safety of civilians,” said Lieutenant General Sandy Storrie, Deputy Commander of the NATO mission.