A security guard stands in front of the United Nations building in Herat, Afghanistan on October 23, 2010.
Chris Hondros | Getty Images
According to the UN Aid Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the main UN site in Herat, Afghanistan, was attacked by “anti-government elements” and at least one security guard was killed.
Rocket-propelled grenades and shots were used to target the entrances to the provincial compound, which UNAMA said was clearly marked as a UN facility. Fierce fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces also broke out near the site.
No UN personnel were injured in the attack and UNAMA said it is urgently trying to identify the perpetrators and hold them accountable.
“This attack on the United Nations is regrettable and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms,” said Deborah Lyons, the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy for Afghanistan, in the UNAMA statement. “Our first thoughts are with the family of the slain officer and we wish the injured a speedy recovery.”
Lyons added that attacks on UN personnel and buildings are prohibited under international law and could amount to war crimes.
The attack comes as US and coalition forces near the end of their withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Afghan security forces are fighting to stop Taliban fighters who continue to make breathtaking strides on the provincial capitals of the war-torn country.
A member of the Afghan security forces stands guard in an army vehicle at Bagram Air Force Base after American troops evacuated it on July 5, 2021 in Parwan province, Afghanistan.
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According to Reuters, Herat is the second provincial capital that the Taliban have invaded in the past 24 hours. Just a day earlier, Taliban fighters entered Lashkargah, the capital of southern Helmand province.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the incident in Herat may have been due to a crossfire, claiming the site was “safe” and had “no problems” after Taliban fighters arrived.
“The UNAMA office was located near the battlefield, which may have been damaged by the guards during the war and mutual fire,” Mujahid said on Twitter. “But when the Mojahedin got there, the office was safe, they didn’t have to worry.”
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement that the US “strongly condemns the attack” and stressed the need to end the ongoing violence in Afghanistan.
“We reiterate our call to immediately reduce violence in Afghanistan and to all regional actors to encourage the parties to return to negotiations immediately so that the Afghan people can achieve a lasting and just political solution that will bring the peace and security that deserves it. ”“ Sullivan said.
A UN report released earlier this week shows that the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan hit record highs in the first half of 2021, with an increase in May when the U.S. withdrawal began. The report did not address the victims in July, when fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces only intensified.
In April, Biden announced a full withdrawal of approximately 3,000 US troops from Afghanistan by September 11th. He gave an updated schedule earlier this month and said the job would be done by August 31st.
The nation’s top military officer said last week that the US had completed more than 95% of the withdrawal. Until it is done, the US continues to support the Afghan armed forces with fighter planes.
The US launched overnight air strikes against Taliban targets on Thursday.