, JALALABAD, August 3 – Suicide bombers detonated an explosives packed car outside the Indian consulate in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Saturday, officials said, killing at least eight civilians.
A spokesman for the Taliban militants immediately denied any responsibility for the attack, which rocked the city and left several houses, tailors and other nearby shops badly damaged.
“A car containing explosives hit a barrier near the consulate and detonated,” Ahmadzia Abdulzai, spokesman for Nangarhar province, of which Jalalabad is the capital, told AFP. “There were three suicide bombers in the car.”
Nangarhar police chief Sharif Amin said that at least eight civilians had been killed and 22 wounded in the strike, with many children and old people among the victims.
The casualty figures were confirmed by officials at the private hospital that received the dead and wounded.
Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for the Indian foreign ministry in New Delhi, said on his Twitter feed that the attack had been “in front” of the consulate, but that all officials were safe.
India, which has spent more than two billion dollars of aid in Afghanistan since the Taliban regime fell in 2001, has been previously targeted in the war torn country.
In 2008, a car bomb attack on the Indian embassy compound killed more than 60 people and, in 2010, suicide attacks on two guesthouses killed at least 16 people including seven Indians.
An AFP photographer reported that ambulances rushed to the scene in Jalalabad and took the injured to hospital as security forces cordoned off the area around the blast site.
“Our fighters have not carried out any attack in Jalalabad,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP. “We do not claim the responsibility for this attack.”
Jalalabad is situated on the key route from the Pakistani border region where many militants are based to Kabul, and it has been the location of repeated attacks in recent years.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) compound in the city was hit on May 29, in an attack that the Taliban rebels also denied any involvement.
One Afghan guard died in the two hour assault, which triggered widespread outrage as the ICRC is one of the respected aid groups in Afghanistan and has remained strictly neutral during the war.
In March, seven suicide bombers attacked a police base in Jalalabad, killing five officers.
The previous month, a bomber rammed an explosives laden car into the gates of the walled compound of the National Directorate of Security spy agency and detonated his bombs, killing two intelligence workers.
Nine Taliban suicide attackers also targeted the NATO base at Jalalabad airport in early December, killing five people and wounding several foreign troops.
The hardline Taliban have led a 12 year insurgency against the Afghan government since being overthrown in a US-led invasion for harbouring Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
But Afghanistan is beset by a myriad of armed groups ranging from Islamist rebels to criminal gangs and militias formed during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s and the 1992-1996 civil war.