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Deadly Kabul attack targets Indian embassy

Latest update : 2008-07-07

A suicide bomber drove his car into the gates of the Indian embassy in the centre of the Afghan capital as people were queuing for visas. At least 40 people died, including an Indian military attaché, a diplomat and two paramilitary guards.

A suicide bomber rammed an explosives-filled car into the gates of the Indian embassy in Afghanistan on Monday, causing dozens of casualties, officials said.

The blast in the heart of Kabul scattered human flesh and severed limbs outside the embassy of India, one of Afghanistan's staunchest allies as the war-torn country battles an increasingly bloody Taliban insurgency.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, one of the deadliest since the insurgency began, and the Afghan interior ministry said only that the explosion had been caused by a car bomb.

The Indian foreign ministry said two Indian paramilitary troopers guarding the embassy were among the dead. But an embassy official told AFP by phone that the Indian ambassador and other senior officials were not harmed.

"We are walking on rubble," the official said. "The embassy has been blown up badly."

Reporters were held back from the scene but an AFP correspondent saw a mound of rubble at the gate of the facility, which is close to the interior ministry.

The powerful morning rush-hour blast sent a plume of brown smoke into the air and could be heard across the city centre. It shattered the windows of shops several hundred metres (yards) away, the correspondent said.

Since being ousted from power in 2001 by a US-led invasion after refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the Taliban have waged a deadly campaign to try to undermine the Afghan government.

Targets have included international and US-led coalition troops from the tens of thousands of foreign forces trying to help President Hamid Karzai restore stability, but attacks have been increasing in Kabul itself.

Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta visited the embassy soon after the attack to show support, his spokesman Sultan Ahmad Baheen said.

"The enemies of Afghanistan and India's relationship cannot hamper our relationship by conducting such attacks," Baheen told AFP.

India has provided significant support to Afghanistan's efforts to restore order after the ouster of the Islamic extremist Taliban movement, which seized power in 1996 until they were pushed out.

The last blast in Kabul was on June 1, when a remote-controlled bomb blew up near a minivan taking Afghan army staff to work. A woman was killed and five other people wounded.

Days earlier, a suicide blast in the city struck a convoy of the US-led coalition military force which is helping Afghanistan defeat a Taliban insurgency and train its army.

The soldiers all survived but three civilians were killed.

One of the most daring rebel attacks in the city was on April 27, when militants opened fire on President Karzai as he was about to address the country's largest annual military parade.

A parliamentarian and two other other Afghans were killed, but the president was unhurt. The attack shocked Afghanistan and its allies.

The international community has sent about 70,000 troops to Afghanistan to help them fight the militants but the insurgency has only gained pace, notably over the past two years.

Date created : 2008-07-07