India condemns suicide raid on mission in Afghanistan

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India strongly condemned a deadly suicide bomb assault on its consulate in the Afghan city of Jalalabad on Saturday, vowing the raid would not stop it from helping to rebuild the war-torn nation.

Suicide bombers detonated an explosives-packed car, killing nine civilians, including seven children, in a nearby mosque.

The suicide attacks "must be condemned in the strongest possible terms", India's foreign ministry said in a statement, adding they were a reminder of the threat posed to Afghanistan by "terrorism".

"This attack has once again highlighted (that) the main threat to Afghanistan's security and stability stems from terrorism and the terror machine that continues to operate from beyond its borders," the ministry said, in a thinly veiled reference to neighbouring Pakistan.

India has already expressed concern about tensions in the region that threaten to keep the conflict in Afghanistan on the boil after the United States and its allies exit.

India has been a key supporter of Kabul's post-Taleban government, and analysts have often warned of the possibility of a "proxy war" in Afghanistan between India and its arch-rival Pakistan.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two over the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir.

"India will not be deterred from its commitment to assist Afghanistan in its reconstruction and development effort," the ministry said.

Mr Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for the Indian foreign ministry in New Delhi, said all Indian officials were safe after the attack.

"This was clearly an attack not just against India but an attack against the efforts to help the Afghan people overcome the tragic hardships they have endured due to several decades of war," he said.

India, which has spent more than US$2 billion (S$2.5 billion) in aid in Afghanistan since the Taleban regime collapsed in 2001, has been targeted several times in the country.

In 2008, a car bomb at the Indian embassy in Kabul killed 60 people and the embassy was again hit by a suicide strike in 2009. In 2010, two guesthouses in Kabul used by Indians were attacked.

The Taleban militant group swiftly denied responsibility for the blast outside the Indian mission, which levelled a mosque, houses and shops nearby.