At least nine Indians, including government officials, were among 17 people killed as Taliban suicide bombers carried out a string of attacks in the heart of Kabul in yet another incident targeting Indian interests in Afghanistan.

The Indians, who died in the incident included government officials, an ITBP constable and a tabla player who was part of a cultural delegation to Afghanistan.

Embassy staffers from consulates in Herat and Kandahar and a member of a medical mission were also among those who died and 12 people were also injured, embassy sources said without giving their identity or breakup.

The bombers struck at a number of 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.

According to ITBP officials, force constable Roshan Lal is among the Indians killed in the blast. Lal, around 35 years of age, was a resident of Himachal Pradesh and deployed as the security personnel at the Indian Embassy.

Tabla player Nawab, part of the three-member cultural troupe which was sent by Indian Council for Cultural Relations to Afghanistan, was also among the killed.

Describing it as a “heinous terrorist attack,” 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,” Mr. Krishna said in a statement.

Sources said 12 Indians were also injured in the attack which also killed an Italian diplomat, a French tourist and a number of policemen.

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 it would not be allowed to hurt Afghan-Indian relations. “Attacks on Indian citizens will not affect relations between India and Afghanistan,” he said.

Mr. Krishna termed the attacks as “barbaric” and a matter of “deep concern” and said they were clearly aimed against the people of India and Afghanistan.

“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,” he said.

Kasaif, an employee of the Indian embassy staying at the guest house said the attack came in the early morning. “We locked our rooms and stayed inside as the premises was rocked by gunfire,” he said.

A wounded Indian doctor, who was an eye-witness, said the “suicide attack was targeted at Indians”.