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41 killed in Afghan attack

KABUL, June 7 – A suicide car bomber rammed the Indian embassy in Kabul Monday, killing 41 people including two Indian envoys in the Afghan capital’s deadliest attack since the 2001 fall of the Taliban, officials said.

The blast in the heart of the city scattered human flesh and severed limbs in front of the embassy compound, tearing down an outside security office and part of a wall. Charred and bloodied bodies littered a road outside.

"The toll of casualties we have so far is 41 martyred and 139 wounded. Among those killed are six policemen," Afghan interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary told AFP.

Many of the dead were Afghans collecting Indian visas.

The Indian embassy’s military attache and a political counsellor were killed along with two Indian guards. The body of one of the diplomats was flung onto the roof of the embassy and only found hours later, officials said.

Indian ambassador Jayan Prasad, who was not hurt in the explosion heard across the city centre, told AFP the suicide attacker rammed the diplomats’ vehicle as it was entering through the gates of the embassy compound.

"The embassy has been blown up badly, the outer structures," another embassy official said on condition of anonymity. "We are walking on rubble."

The nearby Indonesian embassy was also damaged and five Afghan security guards and two Indonesian diplomats were hurt, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was quoted as saying in Jakarta.

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The Taliban have carried out a wave of suicide bombings across the country in the past seven years, but a spokesman for the movement denied his group was involved in the Indian embassy attack.

"We have not done it," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said.

The militants have previously denied involvement in attacks with high civilian casualties but authorities often blame them, pointing to their record of suicide bombings.

President Hamid Karzai accused "enemies" of the good relationship between Afghanistan and India, one of the country’s staunchest allies as the war-torn country battles the increasingly bloody Taliban insurgency.

"The enemies of Afghanistan and India’s relationship cannot hamper our relationship by conducting such attacks," Baheen told AFP.

India has provided significant support to Afghanistan’s efforts to restore order after the ouster of the Islamic extremist Taliban movement, which seized power in 1996.

"Such acts of terror will not deter us from fulfilling our commitments to the government and people of Afghanistan," the Indian government said in a statement.

The United States and European Union quickly condemned the attack, pledging to stand by Afghanistan as it battles a growing wave of extremist violence in the region that has also seen a wave of deadly attacks in neighbouring Pakistan.

In Islamabad, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi added to the outcry, saying Pakistan "condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations as this menace negates the very essence of human values."

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The unrelenting extremist attacks have strained ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which each accuse the other of not doing enough to stop the tide of bloodshed.

The international community has sent about 70,000 troops to Afghanistan to help them fight the militants but the insurgency has only gained pace, notably over the past two years.

In other violence Monday, a Canadian soldier died after being badly hurt in a bomb blast in the southern province of Kandahar, a Canadian commander said.

A roadside bomb similar to those used by the Taliban killed three Afghan police in the same province and a separate one killed four more in the neighbouring province of Uruzgan, government officials said.

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