India's Kabul Embassy Hit By Suicide Bomb
By Jay Shankar, Bloomberg, July 7, 2008
July 7 (Bloomberg) -- A suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives near the Indian embassy in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, killing 34 people and injuring 141 today, a government spokesman said.
``The toll has risen to 34 as four more people died due to injuries,'' Abdullah Fahim, a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health, said in a telephone interview from Kabul. ``One- fifth of the people injured are civilians and the rest are soldiers and policemen.'' Police have also recovered a half-blown body which may be the suicide bomber, Fahim said.
The highest profile attack in the Afghan capital this year came on April 27 when militants opened fire on President Hamid Karzai as he was about to address an annual military parade. An Afghan lawmaker and two civilians were killed in the assault.
In today's attack, the bomber drove the car into the gates of the embassy, reported Agence France-Presse, which put the death toll at 41 with 139 people wounded.
Indian defense attaché Brigadier R. Mehta and Counsellor V. Venkateswara Rao died in the attack, Sitanshu Kar, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said in a telephone interview from New Delhi. Two soldiers guarding the embassy also died, Jasbir Singh, first secretary, said in a telephone interview from Kabul.
An Afghanistan national working in the embassy was among the dead, India's Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters in New Delhi. A team of Indian officials will be flying to Kabul ``immediately to attended to the emergency situation,'' he said.
The White House condemned the bombing and offered condolences to the injured and families of victims. ``Extremists continue to show their disregard for all human life and their willingness to kill fellow Muslims as well as others,'' White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in an e-mailed statement. ``The U.S. stands with the people of Afghanistan and India, as we face this common enemy.''
India ``strongly condemns this cowardly terrorist attack on its diplomatic mission in Afghanistan,'' the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement from New Delhi. ``The government offers its deepest condolences to the families of those who were killed in this dastardly attack,'' Mukherjee said.
The attack wouldn't deter the mission from ``fulfilling our commitments to the government and people of Afghanistan,'' the ministry statement said.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, denied the group's involvement in the attack, AFP said.
Afghan and international troops are battling an insurgency by supporters of the Taliban regime that was ousted by a U.S.-led coalition in late 2001 after it failed to hand over al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Taliban rebels have regrouped in Afghanistan's south and east and increased their efforts to overthrow Karzai's government.
There are about 32,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, 14,000 in a North Atlantic Treaty Organization force in southern Afghanistan and another 18,000 in a separate contingent in the eastern region.
The number of civilians killed in Taliban attacks in Afghanistan this year increased sixfold from the same period last year, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported on May 6, citing NATO-led forces.
From January to mid-April this year, 240 civilians were killed by insurgents, the broadcaster cited unidentified officials from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as saying.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jay Shankar in Bangalore at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also See:Kabul Blast Kills At Least 40 - NPR Discussion
Second Indian diplomat to face violent death - The Hindu
Suicide Car Blast Kills 41 in Afghan Capital - NYT