The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, specifying that the Indians were the target. Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry hinted at Pakistani involvement, but Pakistan denied the charge.
Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said the driver “came up to the outer perimeter wall of the embassy in a car loaded with explosives,” according to the Associated Press. Three Indian paramilitary guards were wounded by shrapnel, she said.
The victims were mostly civilians. No embassy staffers were killed.
Rao did not say who the Indians believed was responsible for the attack, which occurred about 8:30 a.m. along a commercial street that is also home to the Interior Ministry.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman for Pakistan reacted to the bombing by saying, “Pakistan condemns the terrorist attack near the Indian Embassy in Kabul. Pakistan is against terrorism in all its forms and manifestation. Terrorism in any way cannot be justified.”
The attack is the second against the Indian Embassy in as many years. It is also the second major attack in Kabul over the last two months.
The Afghan Foreign Ministry said the Thursday attack “was planned and implemented from outside of Afghan borders” by the same groups responsible for the July 2008 suicide bombing at the Indian Embassy that killed more than 60 people.
The ministry statement made no mention of Pakistan. However, the Afghan government blamed Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence for the 2008 bombing at the Indian Embassy as well as involvement in a string of attacks in the country.
A senior Afghan police official, Sayed Abdul Ghafar, speculated that Pakistan militants were involved in Thursday’s attack. “I can announce clearly that the phenomenon that is causing us trouble is being organized from the other side of the border,” he said.
The Taliban did not say why it targeted the Indian Embassy. India and Pakistan, which have been archrivals since the 1947 partition of the Indian subcontinent, are competing for influence in Afghanistan among rival ethnic groups. India maintains close ties with the Tajik community, and Pakistan with the Pashtuns, who form the majority of the Taliban.
Thursday’s blast was the deadliest attack in Kabul since Sept. 17, when a suicide bomber killed 16 people, including six Italian soldiers and 10 civilians in the center of the capital.
The Interior Ministry said 15 civilians and two Afghan police officers were killed in Thursday’s blast.
After months of relative calm, the Afghan capital has been shaken recently by an increasing number of suicide attacks and roadside bombings that began in the run-up to the country’s disputed Aug. 20 election. The attacks usually target international military forces or government installations, but Afghan businesses and civilians are also often killed or injured.