ARGO, Afghanistan: Afghan security personnel sit on a Ranger vehicle during destruction of the poppy fields in Argo district of Badakhshan province. -- AFP
ARGO, Afghanistan: Afghan security personnel sit on a Ranger vehicle during destruction of the poppy fields in Argo district of Badakhshan province. -- AFP

Three Spaniards, three Afghans killed in Afghan shooting

KABUL: The bodies of three Spanish tourists and three Afghans shot dead while visiting a market in Afghanistan were transported to the capital along with multiple wounded, the Taleban government said Saturday. The group was fired on while walking through the bazaar in the mountainous city of Bamiyan in central Afghanistan, around 180 kilometers (110 miles) from the capital Kabul, on Friday. “All dead bodies have been shifted to Kabul and are in the forensic department and the wounded are also in Kabul. Both dead and wounded include women,” the government’s interior ministry spokesman Abdul Mateen Qani told AFP.

“Among the eight wounded, of whom four are foreigners, only one elderly foreign woman is not in a very stable situation.” Qani said that the death toll included two Afghan civilians and one Taleban member. A diplomatic source told AFP the foreign nationals had been part of an organized tour of 13 people, all of whom were evacuated along with the wounded to Kabul overnight by road, since bad weather made an airlift impossible.

Spain’s government on Friday announced that three of the dead were Spanish tourists, adding that at least one other Spanish national was wounded. “Overwhelmed by the news of the murder of Spanish tourists in Afghanistan,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez posted on social media platform X.

The bodies would likely be brought back to Spain on Sunday, according to the country’s foreign minister Jose Manuel Albares, who spoke on Spanish public television TVE. He said one of the wounded had already undergone surgery in Kabul. The Spanish embassy was evacuated in 2021, along with other Western missions, after the Taleban took back control of Kabul, ending a bloody decades-long insurgency against foreign forces.

Spanish authorities were therefore coordinating with an EU delegation in the capital. “They will remain on the ground until all the bodies are repatriated and the last Spaniard leaves Kabul,” said Albares.

According to hospital sources in Bamiyan, the wounded were from Norway, Australia, Lithuania and Spain. “They were roaming in the bazaar when they were attacked,” the interior ministry spokesman Qani added. “Seven suspects have been arrested of which one is wounded, the investigation is still going on and the Islamic Emirate is seriously looking into the matter.”

It is not yet clear how many shooters were involved. The European Union condemned the attack “in the strongest terms”. The UN mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, said it was “deeply shocked and appalled by the deadly terrorist attack” in Bamiyan, adding that it was providing assistance after the incident.

The Taleban government has yet to be officially recognized by any government. It has, however, supported a fledgling tourism sector, with more than 5,000 foreign tourists visiting Afghanistan in 2023, according to official figures. Western nations advise against all travel to the country, warning of kidnap and attack risks, and tourists holiday without consular support. Alongside security concerns, the country has limited road infrastructure and a dilapidated health service.

Multiple foreign tourism companies offer package tours to Afghanistan, often including visits to highlights in cities such as Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif and Bamiyan. Bamiyan is Afghanistan’s top tourist destination, known for turquoise lakes and striking mountains. It was once home to the giant Buddha statues that were blown up by the Taleban in 2001 during their previous rule. The number of bombings and suicide attacks in Afghanistan has fallen dramatically since the Taleban authorities took power and deadly attacks on foreigners are rare. However, a number of armed groups, including the Islamic State group, remain a threat. The jihadist group has waged a campaign of attacks on foreign interests in a bid to weaken the Taleban government, targeting the Pakistani and Russian embassies as well as Chinese businessmen. – AFP

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