Targeting Indians yet again, Taliban today carried out coordinated suicide attacks at two hotels in Kabul killing nine Indians, including two Major rank Army officers, evoking sharp reaction from India.

At least 10 others, including five Indian Army officers, were injured in the strike that killed 17, including locals and nationals from other countries.

The bombers, believed to be three in number, struck at the guest houses, particularly at Park Residence, rented out by the Indian embassy for its staffers and those linked to India’s developmental work in Afghanistan.

External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna said as per the preliminary information provided by Afghan Government officials, “up to nine Indians... have lost their lives. A few Indians have been injured, most of whom are reported to be out of danger. Arrangements are being made for their adequate and expeditious treatment, if necessary, by evacuating them to India,” he said in a statement.

Sources in the Indian Embassy in Kabul said however that only six Indians were confirmed dead.

Mr. Krishna asserted that the attack would not deter India from pursuing developmental activities and would stand by the Afghans in the common fight against terrorism.

Mr. Krishna, who received a telephone call tonight from his Afghan counterpart Zalmay Rassoul, said the “barbaric” attacks were clearly aimed against the people of India and Afghanistan.

Describing it as a matter of concern, he said, “These are the handiwork of those who are desperate to undermine the friendship between India and Afghanistan, and do not wish to see a strong, democratic and pluralistic Afghanistan.”

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in telephone calls made to some foreign news wires.

This is the fourth attack targeted at Indians in Kabul since July 2008 when 60 people, including four Indian embassy officials, were killed in a massive car bomb attack on the embassy building.

Strongly condemning the attack, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said, “Attacks on Indian citizens will not affect relations between India and Afghanistan.”

Indian Embassy sources identified the six deceased Indians as Major Dr. Laishram Jyotin Singh of Army Medical Corps, Major Deepak Yadav of Army Education Corps, engineer Bhola Ram, tabla player Nawab Khan, staffer of Kandahar Consulate Nitish Chibber and ITBP constable Roshan Lal.

Dr. Jyotin Singh was in Afghanistan to train local doctors at the Indira Gandhi hospital while Mr. Deepak Yadav was teaching English at the Afghan Military Academy.

Mr. Nawab Khan, who was killed in the attack on Park Residence, was part of the three-member cultural troupe which was sent by Indian Council for Cultural Relations to Afghanistan.

Mr. Bhola Ram was project director at Afghan Power Grid Corporation and was instrumental in bringing electricity to Kabul from Uzbekistan, sources said.

The project had been completed and Mr. Bhola Ram was in the process of handing over the responsibilities to Afghans for which they were being trained.

ITBP constable Roshan Lal, 35, a resident of Himachal Pradesh was deployed as the security personnel at the Indian Consulate in Herat. He was on leave and in transit on his way back home.

Mr. Chibber was Secretary at the Indian Consulate in Kandahar.

The terrorists targeted those Indians who were engaged in helping Afghan people and building partnership between the two countries, Indian Ambassador Jayant Prasad told PTI.

“It is the handiwork of enemies of Afghan people and friendship between people of India and Afghanistan,” Mr. Prasad said.

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