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SOURCE: NDTV

Around 50 diplomats and other staff members at the consulate in Afghanistan’s Kandahar have been evacuated in view of the “intense fighting near Kandahar city”, India has said. The fighting started as the Taliban tries to regain control over the country as the US pulls out its forces after nearly two decades, sources have said. The personnel at the consulate were flown to Delhi last evening by special Air Force planes which avoided Pakistan air space, sources said.

“India is closely monitoring the evolving security situation in Afghanistan. The safety and security of our personnel is paramount,” the foreign ministry has said in a statement.

“The Consulate General of India in Kandahar has not been closed. However, due to the intense fighting near Kandahar city, India-based personnel have been brought back for the time being. I want to emphasize that this is a purely temporary measure until the situation stabilizes. The Consulate continues to operate through our local staff members,” added the statement by External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.

On Tuesday, the Indian embassy in Kabul said they had no plans to shut down. The consulates in Kandahar or Mazar-e-Sharif will also remain open, it had said. The consulates in Herat and Jalalabad were closed last year in April amid the pandemic.

Earlier, the Ministry of External Affairs said India was carefully monitoring the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and its implications on the safety and security of Indian nationals.

Over the last few weeks, Afghanistan witnessed a series of terror attacks as the US looked to complete the withdrawal of its forces by the end of August, ending its military presence in the war-ravaged country for nearly two decades.

Amid growing concerns in India — which has been supporting the peace and reconstruction efforts — Afghan Ambassador Farid Mamundzay briefed Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on the ground situation on Tuesday.

The Indian embassy has asked all Indians visiting, staying and working in Afghanistan to exercise the utmost caution and avoid all non-essential travel in the country.

In its advisory, the embassy said the security situation remains “dangerous” and terror groups have carried out a series of attacks targeting civilians. Indian nationals additionally face a “serious threat” of kidnapping, the ministry said.Afghanistan was invaded by the US in 2001 shortly after the September 11 attacks that year carried by Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaida. Bin Laden, who went into hiding in Pakistan, was killed in May 2011.