9 Afghans killed in attack on Indian consulate

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Three militants wearing explosives-rigged vests killed at least nine civilians, most of them children, in a botched attack Saturday on the Indian consulate in an eastern Afghan city near the border with Pakistan, security officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the assault in the city of Jalalabad, and the Afghan Taliban denied in a text message that it had carried out the attack. Militant groups based in Pakistan have been blamed for past violence targeting Indian interests in Afghanistan, including two attacks on the embassy in Kabul in 2008 and 2009.


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Saturday’s attack began when two men wearing explosive vests got out of a car as it approached a checkpoint outside the consulate, prompting a police guard to immediately open fire on them, said Masum Khan Hashimi, the deputy police chief for Nangarhar province. As the two sides exchanged fire, a third militant still in the car detonated a large bomb inside the vehicle.

The blast killed nine bystanders and wounded another 24 people, including a policeman. Six of the dead and three of the wounded were children, said Jalalabad hospital director Dr. Humayun Zahir. All three attackers also died, although it was not clear how many were killed by police fire and how many by the explosion.

In New Delhi, India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said that all Indian officials in the consulate were safe and condemned the attack.

Without laying the blame for the bombing on any group, Akbaruddin hinted that the assault had been planned outside Afghanistan.

“This attack once again highlighted that the main threat to Afghanistan’s security and stability stems from terrorism and the terror machine that continues to operate from beyond its borders,” he said in statement. “India will not be deterred from its commitment to assist Afghanistan in its reconstruction and development effort.”

India has in recent years invested more than $2 billion in development aid for Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai also condemned the attack and lamented the loss of life.

Groups known for attacking Indian interests include Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was blamed for the 2008 attack on the Indian city of Mumbai that killed 166 people. LeT has been active in Afghanistan in recent years, often teaming up with insurgent groups operating in the eastern part of the country near the frontier with Pakistan. Last year the U.S.-led military coalition arrested a senior LeT leader in eastern Afghanistan.

India has been frustrated by Pakistan’s failure to crack down on Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has strong historical links with Pakistani intelligence. Islamabad has always viewed India as a potential rival in Afghanistan, which it considers its strategic backyard.

In 2010, two Kabul guest houses popular among Indians were attacked, killing more than six Indians. India blamed that attack on LeT.

The Indian Embassy was bombed in 2008 and again in 2009, leaving 75 people dead in the two attacks.

Saturday’s attack came as the U.S. planned to close its embassies in the Muslim world for the weekend due to an al-Qaida threat.

Also in Nangarhar province, 22 police officers and 76 Taliban were killed in the Sherzad district of Nangarhar in two days of battles with insurgents that broke out when militants shot a tribal elder, officials and police said.

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