KABUL: Afghan security personnel stand in front of damaged gate after twin blasts struck near the Afghan parliament in Kabul yesterday. — AFP

KANDAHAR: The killing of five diplomats from the United Arab Emirates in a bombing in southern Afghanistan marks the deadliest attack ever for the young nation’s diplomatic corps, though it’s too soon to tell who was behind it or if the Gulf envoys were even the targets. The federation of seven sheikhdoms, founded in 1971 on the Arabian Peninsula, said it would fly the nation’s flag at half-staff for three days in honor of the dead from the attack Tuesday in Kandahar.

The Taleban denied planting the bomb, even as the insurgents claimed other blasts Tuesday that killed at least 45 people. No other group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Kandahar, a province in Afghanistan’s Taleban heartland. The bomb targeted a guesthouse of Kandahar Gov Homayun Azizi, who was wounded in the assault along with UAE Ambassador Juma Mohammed Abdullah Al-Kaabi. The attack killed 11 people and wounded 18, said Gen Abdul Razeq, Kandahar’s police chief, who was praying nearby at the time of the blast.

Razeq said investigators believe someone hid the bomb inside a sofa at the guesthouse. He said an ongoing construction project there may have allowed militants to plant the bomb. “Right now we cannot say anything about who is behind this attack,” he told AP, while adding that several suspects had been arrested. Yesterday, broken glass from the powerful blast still littered the bloodstained ground outside of the guesthouse, with thick black soot still visible on the building. Some furniture sat outside, apparently moved as part of the construction.

HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah yesterday sent a cable to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, expressing condolences and sympathy over the deaths of the Emirati diplomats. The Amir wished speedy recovery for the injured, voicing Kuwait’s strong condemnation of the heinous terrorist blast that targeted lives of innocent people, as against all faiths and human values. The Amir voiced Kuwait’s support of all measures the UAE would take to counter terrorism, reiterating the country’s unwavering stance rejecting all forms of terrorism, as well as reaffirming backing of the international community to combat it and dry off its sources of financing.

HH the Amir sent a similar cable of condolences to UAE’s Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum. HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah sent similar cables of condolences.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum offered condolences for the families of the dead and condemned the attack. “There is no human, moral or religious justification for the bombing and killing of people trying to help” others, he wrote on Twitter. On the Afghan side, authorities said the dead included two lawmakers, a deputy governor from Kandahar and an Afghan diplomat stationed at its embassy in Washington.

The attack inside the heavily guarded compound represents a major breach of security, even in Afghanistan, a country long torn by war. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani yesterday condemned the attack and ordered an investigation. The Taleban is usually quick to take credit for attacks, particularly those targeting the government or security forces. But yesterday, the Taleban issued a short statement blaming an “internal local rivalry” for the Kandahar attack. Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, said Tuesday’s attack wouldn’t stop the UAE’s humanitarian efforts abroad. He wrote on Twitter: “We will not be discouraged by despicable terrorist acts carried out by the forces of evil and darkness.” – AP