Afghan officials say a suicide car bomber detonated a blast just outside the Indian embassy in Kabul, killing 40 people and wounding 140 others. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad the attack is one of the deadliest to hit the Afghan capital in months.
Witnesses said the bomber attempted to ram two diplomatic vehicles just outside the embassy gates before detonating a blast that damaged the main embassy building and tore through nearby shops.
Among the victims were people waiting for visas, embassy security guards, as well as shoppers at a nearby market.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on the Indian mission, which has developed close ties to the Afghan government and is funding several large Afghan development projects. In New Delhi, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said the attack would not deter it from fulfilling commitments to the people of Afghanistan.
A spokesman for Afghanistan's interior ministry, Abdul Hakim Ashar, blamed the attack on what he called the enemies of stability.
He says the enemies of peace and stability in Afghanistan always try to keep the people of Afghanistan in an insecure environment.
A White House spokesman later condemned the attack, saying the United States stands with the people of Afghanistan and India.
NATO officials in Kabul told VOA the bomber appeared to have gotten through roadblocks that restrict access to some vehicles in the embassy neighborhood. Such large-scale suicide bomb attacks have been relatively rare in Kabul, but ISAF spokesman Captain Michael Finney said security remains as much a concern in the Afghan capital as the rest of the country.
"The security services are endeavoring to make Kabul and Afghanistan in general a safer place. But the insurgents are determined and they do not seem to care about all of the civilian casualties," said Finney.
Monday's blast in Kabul occurred just as U.N. officials were preparing a news conference to discuss the grim tally of attacks targeting food aid for the most needy Afghans.
"We just heard an explosion outside - in the vicinity of this office. This kind of act also put a great number of civilian lives at risk. It is cowardly and we condemn it in the strongest way," said Kai Eide, the special representative of the U.N. secretary general to Afghanistan.
Eide then reported that between January and June, insurgents in Afghanistan looted or burned 466 tons of food aid - an amount he said could feed 46,000 people for a month.
Among Afghans, there is also concern over civilian casualties caused by coalition forces. In the past several days, Afghan officials have called for investigations into recent U.S.-led airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan that allegedly have killed scores of civilians.
On Sunday, local officials said an American airstrike killed at least 22 civilians who were walking to a wedding ceremony. U.S. commanders said the strike killed militants - not civilians.
President Hamid Karzai also has ordered an investigation into conflicting reports about an airstrike Friday that locals said killed 22 civilians. U.S. officials said that strike killed only fighters who had fired on coalition forces. Afghan officials later said that many militants were among the dead.