KABUL, Afghanistan – Three suicide bombers tried to attack the Indian consulate in an eastern Afghan city Saturday, sparking a shootout with guards on a bustling downtown street that left at least nine civilians dead, official said.
The attack, which ended when the militants detonated a car bomb that left charred debris scattered in central Jalalabad near the Pakistan border, did not appear to damage the consulate itself, and Indian officials said all of the facilitys staff escaped unharmed.
The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack, and suspicion instead fell upon Pakistan-based terrorist groups that have been blamed for deadly violence against Indian interests in Afghanistan in the past.
The bombing comes at a time when Afghanistan and India are both trying to patch up relations with Pakistan. Islamabad considers Afghanistan its strategic backyard and has always viewed India – with which it has fought several wars in the past 65 years – as a rival in Afghanistan.
The attack began when two men wearing explosive vests got out of a car as it approached a checkpoint outside the consulate, prompting a police guard to open fire on them, said Masum Khan Hashimi, a provincial police official.
As the two sides exchanged fire, a third militant still in the car detonated a large bomb inside the vehicle. The blast killed nine bystanders and wounded 24.