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Blast outside Indian embassy in Kabul kills 12

A large bomb exploded near the Indian embassy in the centre of the Afghan capital today, killing 12 people and wounding 83, the Interior Ministry said.

The blast tore through a market building across the street from the heavily fortified embassy compound, leaving rubble and debris strewn across the road, where the Afghan Interior Ministry is also located.

India said its embassy had been the target of the attack but that all its staff were safe. Ambulances and other emergency vehicles could be heard rushing to the blast site.

A policeman at the scene told Reuters the bomb had been placed inside a car, but he could not say if it was a suicide attack.

"I was busy working when the blast happened. The windows were shattered, I ran into my tent," said a worker at a nearby building site.

The Indian embassy was the scene in July last year of the deadliest attack in the capital of the eight-year-old war, when a Taliban suicide car bomber killed 58 people, including two senior Indian diplomats, and wounded a further 141.

"As per reports we have received all embassy personnel are safe. There has been some damage to the embassy property. We are closely monitoring the situation," Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said in New Delhi. He said it was too early to speculate who could be behind the attack.

Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said the embassy had been the target of the blast.

"I believe the suicide bomb was directed against the embassy because the suicide bomber came up to the outside perimeter wall of the embassy with a car loaded with explosives obviously with the aim of targetting the embassy," Rao told reporters.

Rao said the blast was similar in size to the 2008 attack but that measures taken since then to secure the embassy had worked effectively in protecting its embassy staff.

Indian authorities blamed the Pakistani intelligence service for last year's blast.

Mohammad Osman Shapor, a government employee was on his way to work when he was wounded in the blast.

"I was on my way to work. Suddenly, I heard a bang near the Interior Ministry. The explosion threw me off my bicycle and I was unconscious," Shapor told Reuters lying in a hospital bed in central Kabul.

A spokesman for the United Nations in Kabul said two of their vehicles were damaged in the blast but that all its staff were accounted for.

Violence in Afghanistan has reached its worst levels of the war with Taliban insurgents spreading their attacks to previously secure areas. This year has also been the deadliest for Western troops in the country.

The mounting violence grips the country as US President Barack Obama is considering whether to send up to 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan as requested by his top commander there, General Stanley McChrystal.

There are now more than 100,000 Western troops serving in Afghanistan, two-thirds of them American.


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