Four Indians among 44 killed in suicide blast in Kabul

A powerful explosion killed at least 44 people, including high-ranking Indian embassy officials, and wounded 147 others in an apparent suicide attack at the Indian embassy in Kabul Monday, Afghan interior ministry officials said.

The attack marks the deadliest suicide bombing since the fall of Taliban regime in 2001, reported dpa.

An official statement by the Interior Ministry said more than 100 people were killed and injured in the incident, but gave no details.

According to the statement, initial findings showed the bomber targeted the Indian embassy.

"Terrorists in cooperation with some secret agencies in the region carried out this attack," it said.

The victims were mostly civilians, including women and children, Abdullah Fahim, spokesman of the Afghan Health Ministry said.

Four Indians, including two high-ranking embassy officials, were among four Indian nationals killed in bombing attack, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said at a briefing in the Indian capital.

He said Defence Attache Brigadier R Mehta and political counselor V Venkat Rao were killed in the blast, along with two Indo-Tibetan Border Police security personnel - Ajay Panthia and Roop Singh. An Afghan national employed at the Indian mission had also been killed, he said.

"A special team is leaving for Kabul immediately to attend this emergency situation facing our mission," Mukherjee said. The team, headed by a high-ranking diplomat, would include security officials and a medical team.

Diplomatic officials said the team would also re-evaluate the security of Indians working in Afghanistan.

The bodies of the four Indians and all those seriously injured would be flown back to Delhi as soon as possible, diplomatic officials said.

Three other Indian security personnel and an Afghan employee were critically injured in the blast, Jayant Prashad, the Indian ambassador to Afghanistan, told the IANS news agency.

"Dozens of visa seekers and Afghan nationals located adjacent to the embassy have also been killed or injured in the attack after a suicide member blew up his vehicle at the entrance to the embassy," he said.

He said other personnel in the embassy were safe and India was determined to carry on with work aimed at rebuilding violence-torn Afghanistan. "The morale of my colleagues in the embassy is good and nothing is going to shake them in their commitment," Prashad said.

Militants, over the past two years, have frequently attacked Indian projects and personnel in Afghanistan. India is involved in several reconstruction and rehabilitation projects in the country.

"The government of India strongly condemns this cowardly terrorist attack on its diplomatic mission in Afghanistan. Such acts of terror will not deter us from fulfilling our commitments to the government and people of Afghanistan," India's External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said in a statement.

Earlier, the Afghan Defence Ministry said five people died on the spot while two died in hospital after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-packed car outside the gate of the Indian embassy.

Local Afghan media reported that at least 15 people were killed or injured in the attack. A television station quoted doctors from the hospital saying at least 16 injured people had arrived in the emergency room so far.

"The situation is critical and the blast destroyed several vehicles parked around the area," a witness said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, while strongly condemning suicide attack outside then Indian embassy, said "enemies" of the strong friendship between Afghanistan and India targeted the Indian embassy.

A statement issued from the president's office said, "The president strongly condemned the terrorist attack against the Indian embassy in Kabul and considers it the work of enemies of Afghanistan-India friendship."

The statement quoted Karzai as saying, "Enemies of Afghanistan cannot stop friendly relations of the two countries by carrying out such attacks."

A statement released by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said, "It can only be described as a cowardly and heinous crime. I condemn it in the strongest possible terms. In no culture, no country, and no religion is there any excuse or justification for such acts."

Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta visited the Indian embassy and met the Indian deputy ambassador, said Sultan Ahmed Baheen said, spokesman for the foreign ministry, adding, "The foreign minister offered condolence and sympathised with the embassy staff on behalf of the Afghan people."

Following the blast, US troops in Kabul opened fire on a car near the Iranian embassy, injuring at least one person.

An Interior Ministry spokesman confirmed the incident, saying the US forces were coming to help secure the crime scene.

"A car was coming near to the US forces and US troops opened fire. In result one person was injured," the spokesman said.

In southern Afghanistan, a soldier of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force died from injuries sustained in an explosion, the military said Monday.

It did not identify the nationality of the soldier.

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