A suicide bomber drove his explosives-laden car into the Indian embassy in Kabul on Monday morning, killing 41 people including two diplomats in the deadliest attack since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
Among the dead were defence advisor Brigadier R.D. Mehta, counsellor V. Venkateswara Rao, ITBP security men Ajai Pathaniya and Roop Singh and an Afghan employee at the embassy, Niamatullah.
The bomber drove his car into the embassy, which is walking distance from the Afghan Interior ministry, as a car bringing Mehta and Rao to work — around 8.15 am — waited for the reinforced steel gates to open. The gate was reduced to rubble under the impact of the explosives, and Rao was flung to the roof of the embassy. The cars and the steel gates lay mangled beyond recognition.
Most of the local Afghans standing in a queue in the visa section on the left of the gate were killed. Shops across the street were hit and the dead and the injured were found some distance away. Indian ambassador Jayant Prasad was safe as he was not in the embassy at the time of the attack. “The toll so far is 41 martyred and 139 wounded. Among those killed are six policemen,” Afghan interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary told AFP.
“The embassy has been blown up badly, the outer structures,” said an embassy official who did not want to be named. “We are walking on rubble.”
No one has yet claimed responsibility. The Taliban who have been behind most of the kidnapping and terrorism incidents in Afghanistan denied any role. “We have not done it,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said. The Taliban were behind earlier kidnapping and killing of several Indians working in Afghanistan. They have said Indians should cease all activities in the country and leave immediately.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is in Japan for the G8 meetings, said, “Those responsible, directly or indirectly, for this terrorist attack and for making this possible are no better than the worst criminals.”
India has sent aircraft to bring back bodies and a team of officials has been sent to deal with the “emergency situation concerning our mission”.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai blamed the "enemies" of the strong friendship between Afghanistan and India for the attack but did not name any person or group. When Karzai called Singh, the PM told him that "we had lost some of our bravest officers, but that would not deter us from working for the reconstruction of Afghanistan".
Officials in the Afghan Interior Ministry hinted at the involvement of a neighbouring country. "Terrorists have carried out this attack in coordination and consultation with some of the active intelligence circles in the region."
Pakistan's foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, said Islamabad condemned the attack and terrorism in all forms. The US and the European Union issued statements condemning the bombing.
The embassy attack was the sixth suicide bombing in Kabul this year. Insurgent violence has killed more than 2,200 people — mostly militants — in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press count.