Thursday, 8 October 2009
Kabul - A car packed with explosives blew up beside the Indian Embassy on Thursday, leaving at least a dozen dead
KABUL, Afghanistan — A car packed with explosives blew up beside the Indian Embassy on Thursday, leaving at least a dozen dead in what India’s foreign secretary said was an attack on the embassy compound, the second in two years.
The blast killed 12 people and wounded 82, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry, whose own building is across the street from the blast site. Indian authorities said none of the embassy staff had been hurt, but three guards outside had been wounded.
“The suicide bomber was directed against the embassy,” India’s foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao, told reporters in New Delhi.
The blast appeared to be similar in pattern to one in July 2008, which American intelligence officials said Pakistan’s intelligence agency had helped to plan. Pakistan denied the charges but promised an investigation. Fifty-four people were killed in that attack, including an Indian defense attaché.
The Associated Press cited a Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahed, as saying that the Taliban had carried out the attack. American commanders believe that the Taliban here are a set of related insurgencies that criss-cross regions and countries, and it was unclear which specific group was responsible.
American officials believe that Jalaluddin Haqqani, the militia commander who battled Soviet troops during the 1980s and has had a long and complicated relationship
with the Central Intelligence Agency, was responsible for the July 2008 attack against the Indian Embassy. He is based in the mountains of western Pakistan and has sometimes-strained relations with the Pakistani Taliban.
Thursday’s bombing occurred around 8:30 a.m., when a man driving sport utility vehicle slowed down near a side wall of the embassy, said Sayed Abdul Ghafar, a senior police official in Kabul. Soon after, the driver detonated his explosives, partly destroying a guard tower and an outer protective wall.
The heavily guarded area had only recently been reopened to traffic after being closed for months following the previous bombing.
The bombing comes at a sensitive moment. President Obama is deciding whether to increase troop levels in Afghanistan, as the top military commander here, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, has advised. Some in the administration argue that the Taliban do not pose a threat to the United States, while military commanders argue that a Taliban takeover here would open space for Al Qaeda to launch more attacks.
The attack on Thursday underscored the powerful reach of Afghanistan’s insurgency, which is strongest in the countryside, but has also proved capable of carrying out attacks in Kabul, the capital. The last attack came in September, when a suicide bomber killed himself and six Italian soldiers.
The American Embassy condemned the attack: “There is no justification for this kind of senseless violence,” it said in a statement.
Much about the attack was still unclear, but if the embassy was the target, as Ms. Rao has asserted, it would raise questions about the involvement of Pakistan. India is Pakistan’s archrival, and militant groups once nurtured by Pakistan’s intelligence service have struck at Indian targets, most recently last year in the bloody attacks in Mumbai.
Abdul Basit, the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Pakistan, said: “Pakistan condemns the terrorist attack near the Indian Embassy in Kabul. Pakistan is against terrorism in all its forms and manifestation. Terrorism in any way cannot be justified."
Mr. Ghafar stated bluntly that militants from Pakistan were involved.
“I can announce clearly that the phenomenon that is causing us trouble is being organized from the other side of the border,” he said.
In a grimly familiar pattern, most of the dead were ordinary Afghans, many of them merchants at a market that had been refurbished in recent months. Shop owners swept glass and crushed geraniums into small piles on the sidewalk.
Muhibullah, a print shop owner, said the blast was so powerful he felt it in his chest. A thick cloud of dust settled over the area, darkening his shop. An elderly man who had been wounded stumbled in the front door and walked between the printing machines, dazed.
“He didn’t know what he was doing,” the print shop owner said. “We told him, ‘You’ve been injured.’ ”
He said he had hoped that security had improved when city authorities reopened the road in front of his shop. But now he wants to move.
“These places,” he said, pointing to the Interior Ministry across the street and the embassy, “are using the people as their shelter.”
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