Suicide Bomber Strikes Indian Embassy In Kabul A suicide bomb that struck Kabul on Monday blew off the gates of the Indian Embassy, where Afghans often line up for visas to leave the country. The car bomb rattled much of Afghanistan's capital. About 30 deaths and 150 injuries were reported; the toll is expected to rise.

Suicide Bomber Strikes Indian Embassy In Kabul

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

The suicide bomb that struck in Kabul, Afghanistan today blew off the gates of the Indian embassy. This is a place where Afghans often line up for visas to leave the country, and the bombing struck just as two diplomatic vehicles were entering that compound. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is covering the story in Kabul. And Soraya, what did you experience during this bombing?

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Well, this was an early morning bombing and we definitely felt it here at NPR's bureau in Kabul. We're about a mile away from the site. This is actually a pretty safe street where this bombing occurred because you have the Afghan interior ministry, which houses police headquarters, right across from where the Indian embassy is.

So it's very heavily guarded. You have checkpoints leading up to it. So it was kind of surprising that they were able to get in with a car bomb, and a suicide car bomber in fact blew himself up, killing at least 30 people at this point. The toll is expected to rise to about 40, according to the health ministry. And you have at least 150 more who are wounded.

INSKEEP: Given that the interior ministry was also on that street, is it known that India's embassy was the target?

NELSON: Yes. At this point they feel that was the case because the car bomber was more on that side of the street. Initially it was thought that the interior ministry was the target because police are frequently the target. Some people feel it's because of this increased insurgent movement that we have from Pakistan across the border. And obviously Pakistan and India are not the best of friends.

INSKEEP: How safe does Kabul feel right now?

NELSON: Very unsafe today, and this is after we've all been sort of lulled into a sense of security over recent months because the police have actually been very active about checking who comes into town. They check all the trunks now of cars and vehicles, which is not something they did before.

INSKEEP: We're listening to NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson. She's in Kabul, Afghanistan, where a bombing has struck the Indian embassy, it appears, and dozens of civilians are dead. There's also a question about whether civilians were killed in another way by the United States. The U.S. and its allies conducted an air strike yesterday and there are allegations, as there often are, that innocent people were killed. What are you learning about that, Soraya?

NELSON: Well, there's still some dispute about whether this was indeed a civilian wedding party that was returning from a wedding going back to their homes or whether these were insurgents, as the U.S.-led coalition maintains. Certainly a similar dispute exists over Friday's air attack up in Nuristan Province, which is north of Nangarhar, where this other attack took place.

And there as well you have the local officials saying that two vans were filled with civilians, whereas the U.S.-led coalition maintains that they were watching these guys after they had bombed a U.S. base there. They actually were tracking them into these two vans and they took off. So there's certainly a great amount of dispute.

But there's no doubt that the fact that there are allegations of more civilian casualties at the hand of U.S. forces or NATO forces here does not do much in terms of winning the hearts and minds, which of course is very important to keeping the international coalition here.

INSKEEP: How do you try to sort that out as a reporter?

(Soundbite of laughter)

NELSON: It's nearly impossible, because these areas are often very remote, very dangerous to get to. I mean, even the military themselves have to rely on aerial views. It's not like they're on the ground and able to go interview people. But part of it is we try to talk to people who are related to people who were killed in the area or have strong connections.

And we just do the best we can, but we always try to clarify that there is a claim on one side and there is a claim on the other side. Now, I did speak to General McKiernan, the new head of the NATO-led forces here yesterday, and he says both those incidents will be investigated to see whether in fact civilians were killed.

At the same time, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered his own investigation into Friday's attack, and I'm sure he's going to ask the same for the Nangarhar one.

INSKEEP: Karzai, there's a man who's facing a re-election before too long, and is concerned about the protest against civilian casualties.

NELSON: Yes. This certainly does not help his case, but he's come out pretty strongly against the West and against the military in terms of civilian casualties. And in fairness, one should note that NATO-caused casualties are reportedly down significantly, and that the militants are causing more deaths, at least according to the best counts that we can get.

NELSON: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Kabul. Soraya, thanks very much.

NELSON: You're welcome.

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