Reuters International

A close-up view of the Large Buddha niche in Bamiyan in central Afghanistan August 16, 2009. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

(reuters_tickers)

KABUL (Reuters) - At least five foreign tourists and their driver were wounded in Afghanistan on Thursday in an attack by gunmen on their convoy as it passed through western Herat province, government officials said.

The group included at least six British citizens, three Americans and a German, said Jilani Farhad, a spokesman for Herat's governor. At least three Britons were wounded, but the nationalities of the other victims were not immediately known.

Farhad said security forces had been sent to the scene.

The convoy, reportedly escorted by security forces, was on its way from scenic Bamiyan province in central Afghanistan to the city of Herat when it was attacked, Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said.

Both officials described the foreigners as tourists.

Bamiyan, home to two giant statues of Buddha carved into a mountainside and to Afghanistan's first national park, is one of the country's more peaceful areas and attracts some of the few tourists who do visit.

Photographs published by local media in Herat showed uniformed men standing around what appeared to be the burned remains of a small bus with a roof rack for luggage.

The group was taken by Italian military helicopters to a NATO medical facility in Herat, according to coalition spokesman Colonel Michael Lawhorn.

They were treated for mostly light injuries, Farhad said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. A spokesman for the militants, Zabiullah Mujahid, said on Twitter the group had killed the foreign "invaders" as well as seven "slave" Afghan soldiers.

The British Embassy in Kabul was providing assistance to its citizens affected by the attack and was coordinating with Afghan officials, spokeswoman Jenny Jones said.

A spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin said a German national was involved but unharmed in the attack.

The American Embassy did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Several foreign tourism companies advertise adventure tours to Afghanistan, including one British firm which had a trip scheduled to the area in Herat this week.

Afghanistan remains locked in a violent insurgency and Western embassies typically warn their citizens against all but essential travel there, citing threats of attack and kidnapping.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

reuters_tickers

 Reuters International