Many Afghan civilians’ killed in attack targeting US Consulate

Taliban attacks US consulate in Afghanistan 0:16

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Many civilians were killed when Taliban insurgents launched a major attack on a U.S. Consulate in western Afghanistan early Friday, the American envoy to the country said.

Civilians and contractors who worked for the consulate in Herat were among the victims, U.S. Ambassador James Blair Cunningham said.

“We are deeply saddened by this senseless loss of life, and our prayers go out to the victims and their families,” he added. In a statement posted on Facebook by NATO, Cunningham confirmed that "many Afghan civilians" had been killed.

No Americans had died in the attack, officials said.

Afghanistan security forces take their position during an attack on the U.S. consulate in Herat on Sept. 13. Aref Karimi / AFP - Getty Images

"All consulate personnel are safe and accounted for," U.S. Embassy spokesman Robert Hilton said.

Violence started at around 5:30 a.m. (9 p.m. ET) when a truck drove to the consulate’s front gate, American officials said.

“The attackers -- possibly firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles -- commenced attacking Afghan protective forces on the exterior of the gates and contracted security guards,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement. “Shortly after, the entire truck exploded, extensively damaging the front gate.”

It "appears some attackers were wearing suicide explosive devices," she added. 

Taliban spokesman Zazibullah Mujahid told NBC News that the group had been behind the strike.

American officials did not give more details on the number of civilian casualties. Herat Police Chief General Rahmatullah Safi said one civilian and two Afghan National Police were killed in the attack.

The bold attack in Herat again shone a light on the worrying security situation in Afghanistan as the country prepared to take over from foreign combat troops after 12 years of war and stage crucial presidential elections next year.

NBC News' F. Brinley Bruton and Daniel Arkin contributed to this report.