Nine Indians were among 18 people killed in a series of attacks by the Taliban in central Kabul on Friday.
The Indians are believed to have included an army officer working at the Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital in Kabul and Nawab Khan, a noted tabla player who was there for a cultural programme.
According to Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna, “the deceased Indians include government officials.” Three Indians were reported missing.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the multiple attack. One of these was a bomb explosion outside an apartment block that housed many Indians, many military men working at the hospital. In another attack, suicide bombers stormed a guesthouse frequented by Britons and Americans. A 90-minute firefight between security forces and other insurgents followed. An Italian embassy official and two Afghan policemen were among the dead.
Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attacks on behalf of the Taliban spokesman, saying five insurgents, including two suicide bombers, had targeted “where the foreign people are staying.” He stressed that “the actual targets are foreign people.”
The attacks spread debris and shattered windows in an adjacent shopping center and hotel. They were the fourth assault on the capital since October and reflected an accelerating trend over the past year for the Taliban to increase attacks in urban areas.
Analysts do not rule out the possibility that the Taliban may have decided to raise India on their target list. It was well-known that Indians resided in the apartments that were attacked. President Hamid Karzai condemned the attacks and said, “Attacks on Indian citizens will not affect relations between India and Afghanistan.”
Mujahid has previously spoken on behalf of Sirajuddin Haqqani’s Taliban grouping. The Haqqani network was behind both the attacks on the Indian Embassy in Kabul.
Indian intelligence believes Haqqani is the Taliban leader closest to Pakistan. Says counterterrorism expert Ajai Sahni, “Haqqani has a direct line to the Pakistani army establishment.”