9 killed in attack on Indian consulate in Afghanistan

JALALABAD (Afghanistan/Nangarhar): Suicide bombers targeted the Indian consulate in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Saturday, detonating an explosives-packed car outside the building and killing nine civilians, including a child.

A spokesman for the Taliban militant group immediately denied any responsibility for the attack, which rocked the city and left a mosque, private houses, tailors and other nearby shops in ruins.

“A car containing explosives hit a barrier near the consulate and detonated,” Ahmadzia Abdulzai, spokesman for Nangarhar province, of which Jalalabad is the capital, told AFP. “There were three suicide bombers in the car.”

Nangarhar police chief Sharif Amin confirmed that the consulate was the intended target of the blast, which created a large crater in the road as survivors wearing blood-stained clothing ran for cover.

The interior ministry condemned the attack as “heinous” and said nine people had died, with 21 other civilians wounded. The death toll included at least one child.

An AFP photographer reported that ambulances rushed to the scene and took the injured to hospital as security forces cordoned off the area, where several large buildings were badly damaged.

Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for the Indian foreign ministry in New Delhi, said on his Twitter account that all officials were safe after the attack — the first major strike in Afghanistan during the holy month of Ramadan that started on July 10.

India, which has spent more than two billion dollars of aid in Afghanistan since the Taliban regime fell in 2001, has been previously targeted in the war-torn country.

In 2008, a car bomb attack on the Indian embassy killed more than 60 people and, in 2010, suicide attacks on two guesthouses killed at least 16 people including seven Indians.

“Our fighters have not carried out any attack in Jalalabad,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP. “We do not claim the responsibility for this attack.”

Jalalabad is situated on the key route from the Pakistani border region — where many militants are based — to Kabul, and it has been the location of repeated attacks in recent years.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) compound in the city was hit on May 29, with the Taliban rebels also denying any involvement.