Explosions, Gunfire Rattle Kabul’s Major Commercial Area As Guest House Popular Among Chinese Nationals Targeted

The latest: A Kabul guest house popular with Chinese business visitors is the latest place to be the target of explosions and gunfire. An explosion followed by gunshots were heard from this building in Kabul’s Shahr-e-Naw area, one of Kabul’s main commercial areas. As per the Taliban, there were no civilian casualties and all three attackers had been killed.

Let’s deep dive into the developments:

  • Residents of the Shahr-e-Naw area in central Kabul said shootings continued in the area after a powerful explosion. Many said that the attack was carried out at a hotel where Chinese and other foreigners usually stay.
  • Taliban’s Ministry of Interior confirmed the attack and spokesman of this ministry, Abdul Nafi Takor said that an operation was started in the area to counter the situation.
  • Taliban police in Kabul also confirmed the attack and Khalid Zadran, spokesperson of Taliban police in Kabul, tweeted that Taliban fighters had reached the scene of the incident.
  • Later then, Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman of Taliban tweeted that the attack has ended and three attackers had been killed. According to Mujahid, all hotel guests were rescued and no foreigner was killed. He added that two foreigners who threw themselves from the window had been injured.
  • From photos and videos circulating on social media, one can decipher that three explosions occurred back to back and the sound of several helicopters could also be heard flying over Kabul city.
  • So far, no one or a group has yet taken responsibility for this attack.
  • The attack comes when the Chinese ambassador Wang Yu met with Abbas Stanekzai, Taliban’s Deputy FM, and asked the group to pay more attention to the security of the Chinese embassy in Kabul. Qahar Balkhi, spokesman of Taliban’s foreign ministry, quoted Wang Yu as claiming that the Chinese ambassador expressed his satisfaction with the overall security in Afghanistan. However, Wang Yu called for more attention to the security of the country’s embassy. Stanekzai has promised the Chinese ambassador that the Taliban has prioritized the security of political representatives in Afghanistan.

Why it matters? There has been a significant number of Chinese business people visiting Afghanistan since the Taliban’s return to power, and Beijing maintains a full embassy even while not officially recognising the regime.

  • One has to remember that this attack comes days after an attack on the Pakistani chief of mission in Kabul. The Charge d’Affaires of the Pakistani embassy in Kabul was shot at from a building adjacent to the embassy on December 2, however, he was not injured. ISIS had claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • Before this, the Russian embassy too had been attacked. Two Russian embassy staff members had been killed, along with a civilian, in a suicide bomb attack near the entrance of the Russian embassy in Kabul. This too was claimed by ISIS.
  • There have been scores of bomb blasts and attacks — many claimed by the local chapter of the ISIS group — in the past few months in Afghanistan. However, the ruling Taliban has claimed to have improved national security since storming back to power in August last year.
  • Such attacks on foreign embassies, foreign nationals in Afghanistan have been criticised by the global community. In fact, Pakistan, Russia and China- all have had urged Taliban on various occasions to step up security measures in the country. However, these requests it seems have been met with false promises, as the Taliban has not been able to provide security and such incidents keep occurring day after day.

Zoom out: China, which shares a rugged 76-kilometre (47-mile) border with Afghanistan, has not officially recognised the Taliban government but is one of the few countries to maintain a full diplomatic presence there.

  • The Chinese government also continues to engage with the Taliban on various fronts like economy and trade, which can see bump ahead if such attacks continue. The Taliban are at pains to portray Afghanistan as safe for diplomats and business people.
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