Islamic State claims deadly Afghanistan attack on tourists

The Islamic State group on Sunday claimed responsibility for an attack targeting tourists in Afghanistan that killed three Spaniards and three Afghans.

The jihadist group said in a statement on its Telegram channels that “fighters shot at Christian tourists and their Shiite companions with machine guns” in the mountainous city of Bamyan on Friday.

The tour group was fired on while shopping in a market in Bamyan, around 180 kilometres (110 miles) west of the capital Kabul.

The jihadists said they attacked a “bus of tourists who are citizens of coalition countries”, referring to a US-led coalition that has battled IS in the Middle East.

“The attack comes in line with the directives of the leaders of the Islamic State to target nationals of coalition countries wherever they may be,” the statement added.

Taliban officials said on Saturday they had arrested seven suspects in the aftermath of the attack.

Increased tourism

The number of bombings and suicide attacks in Afghanistan has reduced dramatically since the Taliban authorities took power.

However, a number of armed groups, including IS, remain a threat.

The jihadists have repeatedly targeted the historically persecuted Shiite Hazara community, considering them heretics.

Hazaras make up the majority of the population in Bamyan province, Afghanistan’s top tourist destination.

The attack is believed to be the first deadly assault on foreign tourists since the Taliban returned to power in 2021 in a country where few nations have a diplomatic presence.

Increasing numbers of visitors have travelled to Afghanistan as security has improved since the Taliban ended their insurgency after ousting the Western-backed government.

The Taliban government has yet to be officially recognised by any foreign 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 elevated risks of kidnappings and attacks.

The group targeted in Friday’s attack was made up of 13 travellers from various countries, including six Spanish nationals.

Spanish officials said Sunday that all three Spaniards killed in the attack were from Catalonia.

They included a mother and a daughter and a 63-year-old man who worked as an engineer.

An 82-year-old Spanish retiree was seriously wounded and was evacuated to a Kabul hospital operated by the Italian NGO Emergency, where she and others injured in the attack were stabilised.

“She is progressing favourably from her injuries, but her prognosis is uncertain,” the Spanish foreign ministry said.

Jose Manuel Albares, Spain’s foreign minister, said Sunday on X that he “strongly condemns” the IS attack and would “work to ensure that these crimes do not go unpunished.”

“The two unharmed Spaniards are now out of Afghanistan. The operation to repatriate the rest of the Spanish victims is still underway,” he added.

Spanish diplomats had travelled to Afghanistan and had been working to repatriate the bodies of the dead and transfer the wounded, in coordination with a European Union delegation in Kabul.

The Spanish embassy in Kabul was evacuated in 2021, along with other Western missions, after the Taliban took back control of the Afghan capital.

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