NEW DELHI: Four heavily armed terrorists who attacked the Indian Consulate in Herat in Afghanistan today were possibly planning to take staffers as hostage as forces recovered large number of weapons and a packet of dry fruits from them.
The Director General of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which guards the Herat Consulate along with other missions in Afghanistan, said there were a number of "general alerts" in possession of the paramilitary which indicated that Indian assets guarded by them could be targeted by militants.
"The terrorists were no doubt lethally armed. We have made some recoveries from the one terrorist who was killed by our troops right in the consulate perimeter and that shows they were heavily armed as well," ITBP chief Subhas Goswami said.
The DG said they recovered one AK-47, an Under Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL), six caches of live magazines (one magazine can hold about 30 bullets), four hand grenades, 17 live Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) rounds and a packet containing dry fruits from the killed terrorist. Officials, studying the attack, said the recovery of such heavy weaponry coupled with dry fruits indicates the attackers were planning to escalate the situation by taking "hostages" from those in the mission staff.
They said the slain terrorist was a youngster and the fact that he could climb the about 12-feet wall of the consulate with his bare hands shows he was "commando" trained in such exercises. In a pre-dawn assault, four gunmen opened fire on the Consulate which houses two buildings in the western Afghan city, bordering Iran. All the four attackers were killed in the heavy exchange of fire. All the diplomatic staff were safe.
The Director General also also said security at the Indian Embassy in Kabul and consulates in Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif and Khandhar besides Herat has been beefed up and a high alert sounded to all Indian assets based across Afghanistan. "We have been on alert. Our sister agencies have been providing intelligence inputs regularly about sabotage activities against us in Afghanistan. We have asked all our units to be on alert and vigilant," Goswami said.
Goswami, who was in close contact with his 'platoon' commander in the Herat mission till late evening, said, "our brave constables Rakesh and Praveen Kumar shot this terrorist when he was trying to jump the concertina wire fence. This is in the rear side of the Consulate," the DG said.
He said "general information and alerts" were being received by them for the last "many weeks" and hence the troops were on an hightened alert and they "successfully repulsed" the attack. "Three other terrorists were killed by Afghan forces a bit far from the consulate and hence we do not have details of the recoveries made from them," the DG said.
The ITBP, Goswami said, had recently in April bolstered the security of not only the Herat mission but also the consulates in Kandhar, Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif and the Embassy in Kabul by sending 79 commandos who were distributed equally amongst all these five locations.
The attacks started with an RPG bomb exploding just near the mission at about 4 AM in the morning followed by a "heavy volley of bullets" aimed towards the mission after which the ITBP troops took positions and began retaliating.
Officials said the Indian Consulate in Herat is located in a built-up residential area and it is not identified by any signages.
Officials said as soon as the RPG round landed near the mission, window panes of the consulate were shattered and the walls shook. While one terrorist was neutralised in the Consulate, the other three were killed just 100 metres away in a civil buidling.
A squad of 23 ITBP personnel, led by Inspector Manjit Singh, was manning the Herat consulate when it was attacked today.