India condemns attack, sends team to Kabul (Second Lead)

July 7th, 2008 - 6:43 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 7 (IANS) An Indian team left for Kabul Monday to bring back bodies of the two Indian diplomats and two security personnel killed in the terror attack on its mission in Kabul. India condemned the bombing, which also killed 40 Afghans, as “dastardly”. The Indian team is headed by Nalin Surie, secretary (west) in the external affairs ministry, and includes two senior officials of the ministry for external affairs (MEA) and two officials from the home ministry.

T.C.A. Raghavan, joint secretary in charge of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India in the foreign office, is part of the delegation that also includes doctors and paramedical staff.

The dead in the attack include Defence Attache Brigadier Ravi Datta Mehta and Counsellor V. Venkateswara Rao. Constable Ajay Pathania and Constable Roop Singh of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which protects the Indian mission, were also killed. Neamatullah, an Afghan driver employed by Indian embassy, also died.

Three other ITBP personnel and a local employee were critically injured, Jayant Prashad, the Indian ambassador to Afghanistan, told IANS over telephone from Kabul.

“Dozens of visa seekers and Afghan nationals located adjacent to the embassy have also been killed or injured in the attack after a suicide member blew up his vehicle at the entrance to the embassy,” he said.

“The Indian embassy has been fully mobilised and the remaining personnel are safe,” the envoy added.

Underlining India’s determination to carry on with multi-faceted work aimed at rebuilding the violence-torn country, Prashad said: “The morale of my colleagues in the embassy is good and nothing is going to shake them in their commitment.”

There was shock and consternation in South Block - the seat of the Indian foreign office - over the first direct attack on the Indian embassy in Afghanistan and the first such incident in which Indian diplomats have been killed.

Shortly before the team left, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee “strongly condemned” the “cowardly terrorist attack” on its mission in Kabul that killed at least 44 people and left over 100 injured.

Mukherjee held an emergency meeting with Defence Minister A.K. Antony and officials of the defence and external affairs ministries.

Expressing condolences to the families of the victims, the minister underlined that such violence will not deter India from undertaking reconstruction projects in Afghanistan ranging from building roads and bridges to power stations.

Reading out a statement from the ministry, Mukherjee said: “The government of India strongly condemns this cowardly terrorists’ attack on its diplomatic mission in Afghanistan.

“Such acts of terror will not deter us from fulfilling our commitments to the government and people of Afghanistan.”

The minister declined to speculate on the identity of the attackers.

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