Middle East

UAE confirms five officials killed in Afghan attack

Humayoon Azizi (2-R) the Governor of Kandahar province and Abdullah Mohammed Essa Obaid Al Kaabi (3-R) a top diplomat of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) embassy in Kabul, during a ceremony in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on 10 January 2017. Image copyright EPA/KANDAHAR GOV OFFICE
Image caption UAE ambassador Juma Al-Qabi and Kandahar Governor Dr Humayoon Azizi, both in the centre of the picture, were injured

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has confirmed that five of its officials were killed in a bomb attack in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.

They died in blasts at the governor of Kandahar's guesthouse on Tuesday, where at least six others were killed including the deputy governor, two senior Afghan officials and two MPs.

The governor and the UAE ambassador were among at least 18 wounded.

The attack was one of several in Afghanistan on Tuesday.

The Taliban admitted attacks in the capital Kabul and in Helmand province, but denied the Kandahar attack, instead blaming it on "internal local rivalry".

Afghanistan's Tolo News quoted survivors as saying that the bomb was hidden in a sofa at the guesthouse.

Kandahar police chief Gen Abdul Raziq was among the guests, but was unharmed.

Senior police and intelligence officials were also present, officials say.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Afghan police stand guard at the governor's compound in Kandahar

Who were the Kandahar attackers? Dawood Azami, BBC World Service, Kabul

There are many theories as to who was behind the guesthouse attack, but three are seen as being most likely:

The first is that the Taliban or their allies in the Haqqani militant network carried out the attack. Kandahar police chief Abdul Raziq, who was present when the blasts took place, has been on the militants' hit list and is known to be staunchly anti-Pakistan. The Taliban denied involvement but may have done this when they realised the victims were UAE officials. The Taliban are on good terms with the UAE and usually avoid attacking diplomats from countries not involved in military operations in Afghanistan.

Regional tensions mean intelligence agencies from other countries could be involved. Pakistan and India have long tried to shape events in Afghanistan and recently Gulf Arabs, led by Saudi Arabia, intensified their efforts to increase their influence. Iran is not happy about this and has established what it calls "contacts" with the Taliban.

The third possibility is that of local rivalries between officials and politicians in Kandahar. They have sometimes been accused of using the Taliban to harm each other. The Afghan government has launched an investigation to identify those who carried out the attack and their motives.

Three days of mourning have been declared in the UAE.

UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed has ordered that flags across the country should be flown at half-mast in honour of its "martyred" citizens.

The UAE said the officials had been carrying out "humanitarian, educational and development projects".

Among the projects was signing an agreement with Kardan University, in the capital Kabul, to offer scholarships funded by the UAE.

More than 62 people were killed and 100 wounded in a string of attacks in Afghanistan on Tuesday.

The deadliest was in Kabul where at least 45 people were killed when a suicide bomber and a car bomb detonated near the Afghan parliament complex.

Tolo News said 36 parliament workers were among the dead.

In Helmand province a Taliban suicide bomber targeted a guesthouse used by an intelligence official, killing at least seven people.

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