India shuts last consulate in Afghanistan and evacuates citizens

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Afghan policemen stand guard next to Indian and Afghan national flags, at a check point in Kabul city May 12, 2011. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/File Photo

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NEW DELHI, Aug 10 (Reuters) - India sent a military plane to northern Afghanistan on Tuesday to pull out its citizens, officials said, as fighting raged between Afghan security forces and the advancing Taliban.

The Indian government shut its consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, the biggest city in the north, and urged its diplomats and Indian citizens to take the special flight home.

Islamist Taliban fighters have overrun six provincial capitals in recent days in the north, west and south of Afghanistan.

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India, which has invested millions of dollars in development projects across Afghanistan, has now closed all its consulates, leaving only the embassy in Kabul operational, a government official said.

India's main opposition Congress party urged the government also to help evacuate Afghanistan's tiny Sikh and Hindu communities, to protect them from any attack by the Taliban.

Congress official Jaiveer Shergill estimated that there were around 750 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in the country.

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Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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