Kabul attack directed against Indian embassy: Nirupama Rao

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao on Thursday said the suicide attack in the Afghan capital Kabul was directed at the Indian embassy.

Updated: Oct 08, 2009, 15:40 PM IST

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao on Thursday said the suicide attack in the Afghan capital Kabul was directed at the Indian embassy.

A suicide bomber today blew up his car outside the compound of the Indian embassy in the Afghan capital killing at least 12 people and leaving 83 wounded, including three ITBP jawans, in a fiery blast that had all the hallmarks of Taliban.

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

"All the personnel inside the embassy building at that time are safe. Three of our personnel from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), who were guarding the perimeter wall of the embassy have been slightly injured because of shrapnel from the bomb blast. But there has been no loss of life," she added.

"I have spoken to India`s Ambassador to Afghanistan Jayant Prasad and he has informed me that all the members of our embassy (officers and staff and personnel) are safe. The intensity of the blast was more or less similar to the one that occurred outside our embassy in Kabul in July 2008," Rao said.

The powerful blast, which occurred at 0827 local time (0927 IST), blew up the mission watch tower, destroyed vehicles and left a trail of death and destruction with Indian Ambassador Jayant Prasad also insisting, "Indian embassy was the target."

"A suicide car bomb took place near the Indian embassy in which 12 people were killed and 83 wounded. Most of the wounded are civilians," Interior Ministry spokesman Zemaral Bashry said.

The Indian Ambassador said, "We have confirmed reports of nine killed, four critically injured and 12 others severely wounded. The toll may go up."

But the suicide bomber failed to breach the embassy`s security perimeter and Prasad said, "No mission staff or Indian had been killed in the attack." The blast had the same intensity as the explosion that rocked the premises on July 7 last year, he added.

This was the second attack on the Indian mission here as last year a suicide car bomber had rammed the front wall of the Indian embassy, killing 60 people in the strike blamed on Taliban militants linked to Pakistan`s intelligence service ISI.

Rao said the security measures for the personnel and the mission taken after the 2008 attack have "worked effectively and have been able to prevent" what could have been a bigger tragedy today.

After the July 7, 2008 attack, Indian authorities had erected a huge wall of concrete around the embassy to secure the mission which was almost destroyed in that blast.

India has also acquired several bullet proof vehicles for the embassy personnel. In the 2008 attack, IFS officer VV Rao and defence attaché RD Mehta were killed while they were entering the embassy in their vehicles.

Rao also asserted that India will take "whatever measures needed to safeguard security of our personnel and our interests in Afghanistan."

Though nobody claimed immediate responsibility for the attack, Afghan officials said, it had all the hallmarks of a Taliban strike. The city has recently been scene of a number of strikes by the Taliban, including one on an NATO convoy, which killed six Italian soldiers and 10 civilians.

So powerful was the impact of the today`s blast, it blew away the perimeter watch tower as well as a car parked outside the Embassy compound almost 20 metres away.

The road outside was littered with debris, smouldering vehicles, body parts, bloodied clothing. The bomb left a massive crater on the road outside the embassy.

The blast took place on the main road in Shahar-i-Nau dividing the embassy from the Afghan Interior Ministry office and other major government buildings.

Two sports utility vehicles, one of them with UN markings, were also badly damaged in the attack, which took place as people were arriving to work. It shattered glass and buildings almost a kilometre away.

A UN spokesman confirmed that two of the world body`s vehicles were parked near the site of the blast and one of them was damaged with the driver escaping unhurt. UN vehicles for security purposes are armour plated.

After last year`s devastating attack, the Indian embassy had raised its security perimeter wall and erected a number of watch towers on them. The main entrance to the building has been barricaded with entry restricted.

The whole area was sealed off and a headcount was taken of all embassy personnel.

(With ANI inputs)