Iran Closes down Consulate in Afghanistan Following Bomb Blast
Iran closed down on Saturday its consulate the Afghan city of Herat and its diplomats left the war-torn country, reported the official Iranian news agency (IRNA).
The decision came one day after a bomb blast in Heart, which killed at least eight people and injured 30 others, said IRNA.
The blat occurred outside a mosque led to anti-Iranian protests, an Afghan news service reported, cited by Reuters.
"Eight Iranian diplomats have left for Iran via the Afghan border town of Islam Qila under security cover of the Taliban," the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) said, cited by Reuters.
"We managed to secure the diplomats," Herat Governor Khairullah Khairkhwa told Reuters. "They would have been hacked to death had we not saved them on time."
He said sentiments were high against Iran, but Taliban local authorities had brought the situation under their control.
A senior Taliban official blamed neighboring Iran for the blast.
AIP quoted Afghan Foreign Minister Maulvi Wakeel Ahmad Muttawakil as saying that Kabul had agreed to Iran's proposal to withdraw its diplomatic staff from Herat until the situation calmed down.
"The Iranian Foreign Ministry had suggested the withdrawal of diplomats until the situation improves in Herat," the AIP quoted Muttawakil as saying.
Iran supports anti-Taliban groups led by commander Ahmad Shah Masood, who hold some 10 percent of Afghanistan.
An Afghan Foreign Ministry statement, issued in Kabul on Saturday, said that some circles in Iran were behind the blast, adding that they did not want improved relations between the two countries, according to Reuters.
"By realizing the importance of the improvement of relations between Afghanistan and Iran...pro-terrorism circles in Iran, not only attacked the normalization of relations between the two countries but tried to provoke...the religious feelings of the two Muslim nations," it said.
The statement said the blast occurred ahead of a high-level meeting of foreign ministry officials from the two countries due to take place in Herat to discuss the opening of new border posts between Iran and Afghanistan.
It did not say if the meeting had been cancelled.
Witnesses said hundreds of people demonstrated against Iran in Herat on Saturday but there was no violence.
The blast, which happened after Friday prayers, killed exiled Iranian Sunni scholar Maulvi Mohammad Musa Akrampoor, said IRNA.
The Taliban said Akrampoor was the main target of the blast. It said the person who had planted the bomb was an Iranian national who was killed in the blast – Albawaba.com
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