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Holbrooke regrets remarks

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Richard Holbrooke
Richard Holbrooke

Narayan Lakshman

Washington DC: United States' Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke has apologised for any misunderstanding arising from the remarks he made here on Tuesday, suggesting that Indians were not targeted in the February 26 suicide attacks in Kabul.

In a statement here, Mr. Holbrooke said, “I regret any misunderstanding caused by my comments on the recent terrorist attack in Kabul, which claimed the lives of six Indians and at least 10 citizens of other nations.” He went on to clarify that he did not say Indians were not targeted, but that initially it appeared that the target was not an “official” Indian facility.

In the coordinated suicide attacks at two hotels in Kabul, up to nine Indians were killed, including two senior Army officers. One attack site was the Park Residence Hotel, regularly used by Indian Embassy for its staff and Indians engaged in development work in Afghanistan.

Following the attacks, India's External Minister S.M. Krishna had said, “These barbaric attacks are a matter of deep concern and are clearly aimed against the people of India and the people of Afghanistan.” He said that this was the work of those who were desperate to undermine the friendship between India and Afghanistan.

Speaking to The Hindu on Thursday, following Mr. Holbrooke's comments, senior officials in New Delhi had said the comments were “absolutely incorrect” and ignored the fact that the terrorists' primary target was a building used by the Indian medical mission.

Earlier this week in Washington, Mr. Holbrooke caused a furore when he said, “I don't accept the fact that this was an attack on an Indian facility like the embassy. There were foreigners, non-Indian foreigners hurt. It was a soft target. And let's not jump to conclusions.” He further said, “Let's not draw a conclusion for which there's no proof.”

However, on Thursday he withdrew his statements saying, “We all know that Indian citizens have [been] and continue to be targeted by terrorists, including inside Afghanistan. My heart goes out to the families of all of the victims”.

Mr. Holbrooke added that both the Afghan people and international community deeply appreciated the substantial humanitarian and reconstruction assistance that India was providing to Afghanistan.

The willingness of India to take risks and make sacrifices to help Afghanistan was a vital part of the international commitment to Afghanistan's future, Mr. Holbrooke clarified.

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