Security officials conduct an investigation at the scene of suicide bomb attacks in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Aug. 3, 2013. Three suicide attackers killed at least nine civilians, most of them children, in a botched attack Saturday on the Indian consulate. (Babrak/AP)

An explosion outside the Indian Consulate in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, near the border with Pakistan, killed nine Afghan children Saturday, local officials said.

All of the dead were from a religious school near the consulate in a crowded area of Jalalabad, the officials said. The Indian government said none of its consular staff members was hurt.

Taliban insurgents denied involvement in Saturday’s blast, which also injured 21 people, according to the Interior Ministry.

Ghulam Dastagir, a senior police officer, said the consulate was the target of the attack, which involved three suicide bombers in a vehicle.

“The car was rammed into the barrier, which was put outside the consulate gate for its protection,” he said by telephone.

In a statement later Saturday, the Indian Embassy said, “Such cowardly attacks will not deter India from providing reconstruction and developmental assistance to our true friend, Afghanistan.”

Images broadcast on a private Afghan TV channel showed several destroyed shops and a crater in the road apparently caused by the blast.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. The Taliban, whose leadership is thought to be based in Pakistan, has claimed responsibility in the past for similar attacks in Afghanistan, including two deadly suicide raids on the Indian Embassy in Kabul in 2008 and 2009 that killed scores of people, including several Indians.

At the time, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Pakistan’s military establishment was involved in one of the attacks.

Karzai, whose government has the warmest ties with India in the region and has recently sought its help in equipping Afghanistan’s security forces, strongly condemned Saturday’s attack.

Pakistan is India’s historical arch rival and has previously voiced concern about the growing number of consulates that New Delhi has opened in Afghanistan.

Saturday’s attack came a day after Taliban militants killed 22 Afghan police officers in an ambush in a rugged region south of Jalalabad. The Afghan government says dozens of Taliban fighters were also killed in the subsequent clashes.