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KABUL — Suicide attackers struck an Indian consulate in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing nine civilians, officials said.

According to a spokesman for the Nangarhar governor’s office, Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, a Toyota Corolla pulled up outside the Indian consulate gate in Jalalabad this morning carrying three people. As two gunmen leapt from the car, the vehicle exploded, killing all three.

The spokesman said the nine dead civilians and 23 wounded included street children and students from a small madrassa housed in a nearby mosque.

A witness who owns a nearby shop, Shakir Ullah, said he heard the blast while serving customers. He ran outside to see a gigantic cloud of smoke and dust rising while several of the injured limped away.

“Lots of people were screaming,” he said. “I could also hear the crying of children.”

Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said on Twitter that all Indian officials were safe, but three Afghan policemen were among the injured.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid vehemently denied that the group was responsible for the attack.

Omar Sharifi, an analyst with the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies, said any number of groups could have been involved in the attack. These included low-level Taliban operatives who may or may not have been acting under the aegis of Taliban leadership. Sharifi said it was too soon to speculate about which group was responsible for Saturday’s attack.

India’s relationship with Afghanistan, both the government and insurgents, is complicated by the decades-old animosity between India and Pakistan, the latter of which is deeply involved in Afghan affairs. Afghanistan and Pakistan came to blows over their disputed border in May, though officials on both sides have made public statements suggesting they’ve mended their fences.

While the Taliban in particular has historically had close ties to Pakistan, and Pakistan continues to face accusations that it supports the group, Sharifi said those relationships are intermixed with other insurgent groups at the operational level, if not among the leadership.

Sharifi said he did not expect the Jalalabad attack to have any meaningful impact on Afghan-Indian relations. He pointed to the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2008, which killed 58 people, mostly civilians.

“It’s not the first time. It won’t be the last time,” he said. “We have witnessed much bloodier things on the Indian consulate in Kabul … I don’t believe it has any implications.”

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

standifer.cid@stripes.com


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