‘Assassination attempt’ on Pakistan envoy in Afghan capital

Attacker failed to harm the Pakistani diplomat, but shot and wounded his security guard outside its mission in Kabul.

An embassy official said a lone attacker 'came behind the cover of houses and started firing'. [Sayed Ramin/Reuters]

An “assassination attempt” targeted Pakistan’s top diplomat in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s prime minister has said, as tensions between the neighbouring countries simmer.

The head of mission, Ubaid Ur Rehman Nizamani, was the target of an attack on its embassy compound, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Friday, adding that a Pakistani security guard was critically injured in the attack.

“The Interim Government of Afghanistan must immediately hold thorough investigations in this attack, apprehend the culprits, hold them to account, and take urgent measures to ensure the safety and security of Pakistani diplomatic personnel and citizens in Afghanistan,” it said in a statement.

“I strongly condemn the dastardly assassination attempt on Pakistan Head of Mission, Kabul,” Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Twitter.

The attack comes days after Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar visited Kabul to hold talks with her Afghan counterpart Amir Khan Muttaqi amid border tensions between the two neighbours.

The attacker failed to harm the Pakistani diplomat, but shot and wounded his security guard, Sharif added. No immediate confirmation of the security guard’s condition was available.

“I demand immediate investigation & action against perpetrators of this heinous act,” Sharif tweeted.

An embassy official said a lone attacker “came behind the cover of houses and started firing”.

“The ambassador and all the other staff are safe, but we are not going outside of the embassy building as a precaution,” he said.

Nizamani arrived in Kabul last month to take up the role at one of the few embassies that had remained operational throughout the period after the Taliban took over the country in August 2021.

Taliban condemnation

A spokesman for the Taliban’s ministry of foreign affairs denounced the attack.

“Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan strongly condemns the attempted shooting and failed attack on the Pakistani embassy in Kabul,” said spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi on Twitter.

The shooting comes a day after Pakistan’s government demanded Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers prevent “terrorist” attacks coming from their soil. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) armed group, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing earlier in the week in southwestern Pakistan that sent a wave of shock and anger across the nation.

The bombing killed four people and appeared to be aimed at police protecting polio workers in the area.

Pakistani Taliban is ideologically aligned with the Afghan Taliban, which seized power last year after the last US and NATO troops withdrew from Afghanistan.

Pakistan blames the Afghan Taliban for not doing enough to control armed fighters sheltering in their country who stage attacks across the border – a charge denied by the Taliban.

Abdul Syed, an expert on Pakistan and Afghanistan, said that it appears that a new threat for Pakistan from its western neighbour is rapidly emerging.

“Contrary to Pakistan’s expectations, the Afghan soil is being used by Pakistani Taliban openly. Additionally, various Afghan Taliban leaders have expressed their reservations towards Pakistan, blaming it for the ills in their country,” Syed told Al Jazeera.

“When the recent cross-border flare-up happened in Pakistan’s southwestern province Balochistan, the Afghan Taliban only issued a symbolic statement of condemnation. Yet on Afghan social media, the attack on Pakistan’s border forces was praised,” the Sweden-based scholar said.

Thwarted attack

A prominent politician and strongman, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, also escaped unhurt in a separate attack on the same day in Kabul, his office said in a statement. Security guards killed the two attackers as they tried to enter a mosque where Hekmatyar and his supporters had gathered for Friday prayers, the statement said.

Hekmatyar later said in a video message that the attackers were suicide bombers disguised in women’s burqas who intended to blow him up.

“I assure my countrymen, a failed attempt happened here by those who have done it many times but have failed,” Hekmatyar said, adding it was not yet clear who was behind the attack.

“It cannot lower our morale or our resistance … we will stand with our nation,” he said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for either of the attacks in Kabul.

Hekmatyar, who battled US forces after the 2001 invasion and nursed a bitter rivalry with other Afghan factions, agreed to lay down arms in 2017 and join a peace deal with former President Ashraf Ghani.

Hekmatyar stayed in Kabul after the Taliban took power last year, even as Ghani and other former leaders fled.

Hekmatyar founded Hezb-i-Islami in the mid-1970s as one of the main mujahideen groups fighting the Soviets in the 1980s. He then took part in the civil war that erupted after their withdrawal, clashing with the so-called Northern Alliance, before the Taliban first seized power in the late 1990s.

Several bombing and shooting attacks have taken place in Afghanistan in recent months, some of which have been claimed by the ISIL (ISIS) group. A blast at a religious school on Wednesday in northern Afghanistan killed at least 15 people.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies