KABUL (AFP) - A massive suicide car bomb struck outside the Indian embassy in Kabul on Thursday, killing 17 people and injuring 63 more, most of them civilians, in an attack claimed by Taliban militants. In a statement on their website, the insurgent group said that one of their martyrs had carried out the attack in the heavily-fortified central diplomatic area, and said the Indian embassy was the main target. The attack took place just after 8.30 am (0400 GMT) on busy Interior Ministry Street, sending a huge plume of smoke and dust into the air and causing carnage and chaos during the morning rush hour. Interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary told AFP the toll had risen to 17 from an initial 12, including two police officers and 15 civilians. Fifty civilians were among the wounded, with 13 police officers also injured. The Taliban statement, as is usual when it claims responsibility for suicide attacks, exaggerated the extent of the damage and the death toll. The dead, it said, included a few high ranking officials of the embassy (and) 35 soldiers of foreign and Afghan nationality. The explosion caused damage to the walls of the Indian embassy, which was the main target, it added. It identified the suicide bomber as Khalid from the Paghman district of Kabul province. Indian officials - in New Delhi and at the Kabul embassy - said no one at the embassy was killed, though some guards had sustained injuries as the blast blew out glass windows and doors. No foreign troops were reported killed. A similar suicide attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul in July 2008 killed 60 people and was blamed on Taliban militants linked to Pakistans intelligence agencies, sending tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad soaring. That attack, which remains the deadliest in Kabul, led to stringent new security measures such as concrete blast barriers at the embassy - which Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said in New Delhi had limited the impact of Thursdays explosion. In a statement, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the perpetrators barbaric and said: This is a terrorist attack, and an obvious attack on defenceless Afghan civilians. It was the fifth audacious attack on the Afghan capital in two months, as the Taliban brings its intensifying anti-government insurgency to the most heavily-fortified part of the country. Windows were blown from dozens of shops and survivors staggered around the bloodied streets in the diplomatic area, witnesses said. An Indian diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the dead would have been many more had the blast occurred an hour later when the embassys visa section was due to open. Most of the dead and injured were rush-hour passers-by, he said, adding that the embassy would be closed for two weeks for repairs. The US embassy in Kabul issued a statement condemning the attacks, saying: There is no justification for this kind of senseless violence. The head of the European Commission delegation to Afghanistan, Hansjorg Kretschmer, said: The attack will not be a deterrent for Europe from being a key actor in the security sector and justice reform process. Kai Eide, the special UN representative to Afghanistan - subject of allegations he concealed evidence of vote fraud in August 20 elections - also condemned the attack and sent condolences to victims families. An AFP reporter saw a massive crater in the middle of the road. The wreckage of a car appeared to have been blown 20 metres (yards) across the road, while the windows of up to 100 shops were blown out. The road was littered with debris, burned out vehicles and body parts. Bloodied scraps of clothing, including the pale blue burqas still worn by many Afghan women, were scattered across the site. Fire engines and ambulances raced to the area. A white armoured Toyota Land Cruiser with the pale blue UN insignia painted on the side lay damaged. Three civilian cars were also damaged.