17 killed as Taliban target Indian embassy in Kabul
Kabul/New Delhi, October 8
The explosion, the fifth suicide strike in Kabul in two months, was heard in a large area and caused a panic run. Scores of people fell bleeding and others ran for cover. It left a large crater outside the Indian embassy. Interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary confirmed the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber. The Taliban claimed responsibility and identified the attacker as Khalid.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai joined the US, Britain and the European Union in condemning the attack that left some of the injured in serious condition. “This is a terrorist attack, and an obvious attack on defenceless Afghan civilians,” Karzai said. It is “a terrorist act against our innocent people.” The road on which the car bomb exploded also houses the Afghan Interior Ministry and some government departments, but the Taliban said the target was the Indian embassy.
In a statement posted on its website, the Taliban claimed that some senior Indian embassy officials were among the dead. “The embassy building, the main target of the attack, was destroyed in the powerful blast,” it said.
Meanwhile, New Delhi today said it would never bow to terrorists. “India will not be intimidated by such attacks. We will take all steps necessary to protect Indian lives and installations in Afghanistan,” said Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor.
After talking to the Indian Ambassador in Afghanistan Jayant Prasad, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao informed the media that the attack was directed against the Indian mission. “The bomber came up to the outside perimeter wall of the embassy in a car loaded with explosives, obviously with the aim of targeting the embassy. It was the Afghan guard at the mission who intercepted the suicide bomber’s vehicle and prevented it from entering the premises,” she said.
She said the security measures taken after last year’s attack worked effectively and prevented what could have been a bigger tragedy.
Notably, after the July 7, 2008, attack, India had erected a huge wall of concrete around the embassy to secure the mission which was almost destroyed in that attack. The Indian mission has also been provided with several bullet-proof vehicles for the embassy personnel.
Though the Taliban has claimed the responsibility of the attack, senior officials here said it would take sometime before drawing any final conclusion on who could be behind the attack.
US Ambassador to India Tim Roemer visited senior Indian officials at the South Block soon after the news of the attack came out and expressed solidarity with India. British Foreign Minister David Miliband also spoke to his Indian counterpart SM Krishna. “I condemn unreservedly the awful terrorist attack which took place in Kabul,” he said.
The Afghan capital has been hit by numerous attacks in recent months by suicide bombers and roadside bombs. The attacks usually target international military forces or government installations but Afghan businesses and civilians are also often killed or injured. At least 4 major terrorist attacks have already taken place since the August 20 presidential elections.
India’s massive engagement in the reconstruction activity in the war-torn country has earned the country enormous goodwill among Afghans. However, Pakistan and some militant groups, which have been provided safe sanctuaries in Pakistan, have relentlessly opposed India’s presence in Afghanistan.
It was in this backdrop, Foreign Secretary Rao had asked the international community at a seminar yesterday to put effective pressure on Pakistan to implement its stated commitment to deal with terrorist groups within its territory, including the members of Al-Qaida, Taliban’s Quetta Shura, Hizb-e-Islami, Lashkar-e-Toiba and other like-minded outfits.