India hints at Pak link to blast

NEW DELHI: India hinted that a suicide attack on its embassy in the Afghan capital of Kabul last week was staged by Pakistani militants who oppose its support of President Hamid Karzai's government.

Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao, who visited the embassy after Thursday's blast in which 17 people were killed, said leaders in Kabul believed the bombing was carried out by "elements from outside Afghanistan".

"The international community and indeed the people of Afghanistan face a clear danger from the perpetrators of such wanton acts of terrorism and their patrons residing across the border," Rao said in a statement late Saturday.

Though Rao declined to name Pakistan directly, her comments were a clear reference to India's arch-rival and neighbour, and were India's first suggestion of a Pakistani link to the attack.

A similar suicide attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul in July 2008 killed 60 people and was blamed on Taliban militants linked to Pakistan's intelligence agencies.

That bombing sent tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad soaring, though Indian reaction to Thursday's car bomb blast -- which was also claimed by the Taliban -- has been more tempered.

"The attack was clearly the handiwork of those who are desperate to undermine Indo-Afghan friendship and do not believe in a strong, democratic and pluralistic Afghanistan," Rao said on her return to New Delhi.

No embassy staff died in the blast, but some guards were wounded.

The Afghan ambassador to the United States, Said Jawad, went further than Rao, telling PBS radio soon after the attack that "we are pointing the finger at the Pakistan intelligence agency."