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October 9, 2009

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Blast at Indian Embassy in Kabul leaves 17 dead

A SUICIDE car bomber detonated his vehicle outside the Indian Embassy in the busy center of Afghanistan's capital yesterday, killing 17 people and wounding nearly 80 in the second major attack in the city in less than a month.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the 8:30am assault in Kabul and said the embassy was the target.

In New Delhi, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said the driver of the sport utility vehicle "came up to the outer perimeter wall of the embassy in a car loaded with explosives." Three Indian paramilitary soldiers on guard at the embassy's watchtower were wounded by shrapnel, Rao said.

The Afghan Interior Ministry said 15 civilians and two Afghan police officers were killed. At least 76 people were wounded, the ministry said.

It was the deadliest attack in Kabul since September 17, when a suicide bomber killed 16 people, including six Italian soldiers and 10 Afghan civilians, on a road in the center of the capital.

A suicide attack against the Indian Embassy on July 7, 2008, killed more than 60 people. The road in front of the embassy has been barricaded since then.

The Indian news channel CNN-IBN cited Jayant Prasad, India's ambassador in Kabul, as saying yesterday's blast caused "extensive damage to the chancery." He said the bomb was so powerful that it blew off some of the embassy's doors and windows.

In Islamabad, Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman, Abdul Basit, condemned the bombing.

The blast also damaged a line of shops between the embassy and the Interior Ministry, shattering glass and rattling buildings more than a kilometer away. A huge brown plume of smoke was visible in the air as ambulances raced to the scene and carried away the wounded.

A European police officer assigned as an adviser to the Interior Ministry and an Afghan interpreter were slightly wounded by flying glass.

AP Television News footage showed local residents and soldiers pulling a charred, severed leg out of a destroyed vehicle. Others carried an apparently lifeless body on a stretcher to an ambulance.

On another stretcher, a man lay face down, one arm hanging downward, his left leg covered in blood.

Two United Nations vehicles were near the blast and one was badly damaged.

The blast occurred a day after the Afghanistan war reached its eighth anniversary and as US President Barack Obama considered a request for between 10,000 and 40,000 additional troops prepared by the top US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley A. McChrystal.


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