Taliban claims responsibility for attack on Indian mission in Kabul; toll rises to 17

     Taliban has reportedly claimed responsibility for the massive blast that occurred outside the heavily fortified walls of the Indian Embassy in Kabul on Thursday morning. According to reports, the death toll in the incident has risen to 17, which includes two police officers and 15 civilians. No embassy staff is killed in the attack, but three ITBP personnel deployed received minor injuries. In a statement on its website, the Taliban said that one of its "martyrs" had carried out the attack, and said that the Indian embassy in the heavily-fortified central diplomatic area "was the main target", AFP reports. The statement also exaggerated the extent of the damage and the death toll, and said that the toll included a few high-ranking officials of the embassy, 35 soldiers of foreign and Afghan nationality. "The explosion caused damage to the walls of the Indian embassy, which was the main target," the statement added. The blast tore through a market building across the street from the embassy compound, leaving rubble and debris strewn across the road, and it is also said that the blast was more powerful than last year's blast. It is reported that the impact of the blast created a "deeper crater" than the July 7, 2008 blast in which 41 people died, including an army brigadier and a foreign service officer and injured about 150 people. A spokesman of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi said the explosion took place outside the heavily fortified walls of the Indian Embassy. He said that the blast took place at 8.27 a.m., and added that the walls of the complex had sustained some damage. Earlier, an Indian Embassy official in Kabul said that all embassy staff were safe. According to the official, since the blast occurred early in the day, the toll was minimised as staff was yet to turn up for duty inside the heavily fortified complex. Local television stations said it was a car bomb attack. Afghan President Hamid Karzai described it as a "heinous act of terror" planned to target civilians. "This heinous act of terror was an obvious attack on civilians. The perpetrators of this attack and those who planned it are vicious terrorists who kill innocent people for their malicious goals," he said in a statement. Karzai extended his heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims.

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