NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Indian consulate in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, was struck by a suicide bomber overnight – amid warnings against American targets and travel warnings for American citizens.
As CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported Saturday morning, the suicide bomber targeted an explosion in the consulate, killing at least nine people and injuring nearly two dozen.
Police fired on the militants as they approached a checkpoint near the consulate in Jalalabad, prompting one of them to set off their explosives-laden car, said Masum Khan Hashimi, the deputy police chief of Nangarhar province. The blast killed nine bystanders, and wounded another 24 people including a policeman.
All three attackers also died, although it was not clear how many were killed by police fire and how many by the explosion.
In New Delhi, India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin says that all Indian officials in the consulate were safe.
Afghanistan’s main insurgent group, the Taliban, denied in a text message that it had carried out the attack. Smaller militant groups based in Pakistan have targeted Indian interests in Afghanistan in the past.
Hashimi said the attack began when three men in a car approached the checkpoint. Two of the men got out of the car wearing vests rigged with explosives and a police guard immediately opened fire on them, Hashimi said. He added that the third man then detonated a large bomb located inside the car.
The attack came on the heels of U.S. State Department officials issuing a global travel advisory over concern of possible al-Qaeda terrorist attacks, targeting Americans in the Middle East and North Africa.
The alert, which expires August 31, urges Americans traveling in those regions to be aware of their surroundings. CBS News reported.
The State Department has also gone so far as deciding to close 21 embassies and consulates effective Sunday, in several Middle Eastern and North African countries.
The State Department said in a statement that al-Qaeda and its affiliated organizations “continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond and that “they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August.”
“Terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests. U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure. Terrorists have targeted and attacked subway and rail systems, as well as aviation and maritime services,” the statement said. “U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling.”
The alert suggests travelers sign up for State Department alerts and register with consulates or embassies in the countries they are visiting.
“The department, when conditions warrant, takes steps like this to balance our continued operations with security and safety,” said Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson for the State Department.
The State Department has not released any specifics about the threat or where it originated, but said it is acting out of an abundance of caution.
At John F. Kennedy International Airport, many travelers – no matter where they were headed – expressed some fear of flying, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported. But many, such as Angelina, did not have nearly enough fear to stop them from taking off.
“I just try to be cautious with any signs that we see, so if there’s anything, of course, we’ll tell security and whatnot, so I feel like the protection is there,” she said.
Gehad Saber told CBS 2’s Marlie Hall that the warnings would not change her plans for a trip to Alexandria, Egypt.
“Everyone is like be careful,” she said, “I’ve gotten a lot of texts before I left like be safe, don’t go protest, don’t go out on Fridays.”
On the other hand, Greg from Dobbs Ferry was picking up his son from Zanzibar in East Africa, and he didn’t give it a second thought.
“The risk of terrorism affecting an individual is very remote,” he said, adding that it is far more dangerous getting in a car and driving home from the airport.
Meanwhile, Radi of Piscataway and her family were headed to Hong Kong and then to India from Newark Liberty International Airport. She told WCBS 880’s Monica Miller she was not concerned.
“I do read the State Department’s notices and stuff, but I think travel is mostly safe,” she said.
Her husband, Steve, said they have no intentions of changing their travel plans.
“We’re not going to go to the embassy, so we’ll stay out of there,” he said. “We’ve traveled all over the world, so right after Egypt when the terrorists hit, we were there the next week and they took really good care of us.”
Meanwhile, Omar and Nora Abdelbary were flying from Newark Liberty to Egypt this weekend.
“I know exactly what’s happening minute by minute,” said Omar Abdelbary. “I’m not worried.”
The couple said they were closely monitoring the situation, which officials have urged all travelers to do.
“I would let the American embassy know where you are, basically check in and where you are and how long you plan to stay there, and what your itinerary is,” said U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.)
However, security experts have said the best advice may be mot to travel to the regions at all.
“The most prudent course would be not to travel to these places at this given time,” said travel expert Manny Gomez.
But if you must travel to the regions, experts said it is crucial to be aware that Americans may be targets.
“If you have to travel or are already there, try to stay away from any American-owned or American organizations.”
State Department officials said they cannot stress enough that the al-Qaeda threats are significant.
The State Department last issued a major warning last year informing American diplomatic facilities across the Muslim world about potential violence connected to the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
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