Kabul: A suicide bomber on Thursday blew up his car outside the compound of the Indian embassy in the Afghan capital killing at least 17 people and leaving 83 wounded, including three ITBP jawans, in a fiery blast that had all the hallmarks of Taliban.
The powerful blast blew up the mission watch tower, destroyed vehicles and left a trail of death and destruction with Indian Ambassador Jayant Prasad saying, "Indian embassy was the target."
The Interior Ministry said 15 civilians and two Afghan police officers were killed.
The Indian Ambassador had said earlier, "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.
Three ITBP jawans guarding the barricaded embassy compound received minor injuries in the blast which occurred at 0827 local time (0927 IST), Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said in New Delhi.
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.