Suicide Bombing Leaves 40 Dead In Central Kabul

Dozens of people were killed and hundreds were injured Monday in a suicide attack against the Indian Embassy in the Afghan capital.
[Map: Indian Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan]
By Javed Hamdard and Candace Rondeaux
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

KABUL, July 7 -- At least 40 people were killed and 141 injured Monday in a powerful suicide blast near the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan's capital, Afghan officials said.

The explosion ripped through a crowd of people waiting in line for visas at the Indian Embassy in the center of Kabul, said Ali Shah Paktiwal, chief of the Interior Ministry's criminal investigations division. Authorities initially feared that the blast had struck the nearby ministry headquarters, but as the smoke and pandemonium began to dissipate, the grisly scene in front of the embassy indicated that the Indian diplomatic mission had been targeted.

Witnesses said dozens of bodies were strewn on the busy, tree-lined street in front of the embassy. Mirwais, a 40-year-old Afghan government employee, said he was waiting in line with his uncle when he was thrown to the ground by the deafening blast. "I was unconscious for three or four minutes, and when I woke up, I saw five dead bodies around me, several without legs," said Mirwais, who, like many Afghans, uses only one name.

With Afghan and NATO troops battling a resurgent Taliban, the suicide bombing at the embassy was the second major attack against a government target in the center of the Afghan capital this year. In April, an assassination attempt on President Hamid Karzai during a military parade killed three people, including a 10-year-old boy. Karzai was unharmed.

The Interior Ministry hinted that Monday's attack was carried out with help from Pakistan's intelligence service, the Associated Press reported. It quoted a ministry statement saying the blast happened "in coordination and consultation with some of the active intelligence circles in the region."

Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said Tuesday his country's intelligence agency played no role in the bombing, the AP reported.

"We want stability in the region. We ourselves are a victim of terrorism and extremism," Gilani said while visiting Malaysia.

The explosion damaged dozens of cars and several neighboring shops. The sound of the blast could be heard from miles away. Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Nikzad put the death toll at 40, and said that as many as nine police officers and embassy guards were among the dead, the AP reported. Abdullah Fahim, the spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health, told the AP that the explosion injured 141 people.

Several local hospitals were put on high alert as dozens of casualties streamed in from the attack site. A list of 21 people injured and four killed in the blast was posted at Kabul's Emergency Hospital. Sayed Kabir Amiri, deputy director of Jamhuriat Hospital, which is near the embassy, said late Monday morning that 50 wounded and 2 dead had been brought to the hospital.

The attack sowed confusion across the city as relatives of the victims rushed to local emergency rooms to search for loved ones. At the Emergency Hospital, Mohammed Sabeer, 45, said that his 13-year-old daughter had been wounded in the attack and that he was unable to find his three other children after the blast. "I don't know where they are. I checked at another hospital and they weren't there. Now, I want to go to all of the hospitals to see if they were taken there," Sabeer said.

The attack on the Indian Embassy prompted swift and sharp condemnation from the Afghan government. Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta rushed to the scene of the carnage soon after the bomb exploded. Embassy officials said the Indian ambassador was not inside at the time of the blast.

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