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Jul 07, 2008 at 05:08pm IST

41 killed in blast near Indian Embassy in Kabul | Pics

Kabul: A suicide car bomb exploded near the Indian Embassy in central Kabul on Monday morning, killing 41 people and wounding 141, officials said.

The massive bomb rattled much of Kabul and exploded near a row of metal turnstiles outside the Embassy, where dozens of Afghan men line up every morning to apply for visas.

The embassy sits on a busy, tree-lined street in central Kabul near Afghanistan's Interior Ministry.

Several nearby shops were damaged or destroyed in the blast, and smoldering ruins covered the street.

"Several shopkeepers have died. I have seen shopkeepers under the rubble," said Ghulam Dastagir, a shopkeeper who was wounded in the blast.

Abdullah Fahim, spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health, said the explosion killed at least 28 people and wounded 141.

However, recent reports say that the death toll from the attack has reached 41. a senior police official said. ''We have 41 people martyred,'' said the official, who declined to be named.

The ministry collected information from the scene and several Kabul hospitals.

Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta visited the embassy shortly after the attack, ministry spokesman Sultan Ahmed Baheen said.

"India and Afghanistan have a deep relationship between each other. Such attacks of the enemy will not harm our relations," Spanta told the embassy staff, according to Baheen.

India strongly condemned the terror attack at its embassy in Kabul and asserted that such "cowardly" acts would not deter it from fulfilling commitments to the government and people of Afghanistan.

"We are in touch with the Ambassador who is supervising arrangements for medical assistance," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna said in a statement. "The Government of India strongly condemns this cowardly terrorist attack on its diplomatic mission in Afghanistan," he said.

The Indian ambassador and his deputy were not inside the Embassy at the time of the blast, Baheen said.

Militants have frequently attacked Indian offices and projects around Afghanistan since launching an insurgency following the ouster of the Taliban at the end of the 2001.

While Afghanistan has seen increasing violence in recent months, Kabul has been largely spared the bomb attacks that Taliban militants use in their fight against Afghan and international troops.

The Ministry of External Affairs confirmed to CNN-IBN that the Embassy was the target of the attack.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee called for an emergency meeting of top officials in Delhi minutes after getting news of the bomb attack.

Mukherjee discussed the security situation in Kabul with Defence Minister A K Antony and senior officials of the External Affairs Ministry, sources said.

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