The violence in Kabul on Friday which resulted from Taliban suicide bombers running amuck is largely being seen as an attack on Indian interests in Afghanistan, the third such incident; a repeat of the suicide bombings of the Indian Embassy in July 2008 and October last year.
This is apparent from the resulting death of six Indians including two Indian Army majors according to a Press Trust of India (PTI) report carried by The Hindu, and a trooper from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police on Friday out of a casualty figure of 18 dead according to reports latest at the time of writing. This also included at least 12 Indians injured.
‘The deceased were identified as Major Laishram Jyotin Singh of the Army Medical Corps, Major Deepak Yadav of the Army Education Corps, engineer Bhola Ram, tabla player Nawab Khan, staffer of the Kandahar Consulate Nitish Chibber and ITBP constable Roshan Lal, sources in the Indian Embassy told PTI,’ the report said.
NDTV reports intelligence sources as saying that the Noor Guest House where the Indian mission was staying was targeted. The Indian army medical team – seven army officers and five paramedics were housed here.
According to spot accounts by Newsweek journalists, ‘the victims included foreign visitors staying there, mostly from India, but also from France and Italy’. According to the account, ‘It seemed then that, with a profile this low, it (the Park Residence hotel) would be safe; no American or NATO militaryman or anyone else important ever stayed there’.
‘Most of the foreigners killed were on aid missions here, working for non-profit organizations on limited budgets,’ reported The New York Times, also adding, ‘The attack began a little after 6:30 Friday morning when a powerful car bomb exploded outside the Hamid Guest house, which was used primarily by Indians’.
The report also said ‘The Indian citizens who died included people working on reconstruction projects and several doctors who had come to treat impoverished children at the Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital, a pediatric center built by the Indian government, according to police officers at the scene’.
Agency reports carried by the Indian Express quote a wounded Indian doctor as saying the ‘suicide attack was targeted at Indians’.
McClatchy Newspapers reported Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahed as saying, “”Our aim is those foreigners who have troops in the country: We want to put pressure on them to leave.”
Sultan Mohammed Awrang, an Afghan lawmaker was also quoted as saying, “This is the third time that Indians have been targeted.” He also added, “Everyone knows where they are based and who sent them: Pakistan.”
A claim that Mujahed denied in the news report, saying, “”Our aim is not just Indian,” adding further, “It was their bad luck that so many of them were in the guest house.”
But Afghan President Hamid Karzai was unequivocal, condeming the incident as a “terrorist attack against Indian citizens” who were helping the Afghan people, according to NBC News.
This attack has come in the backdrop of larger events. US-led forces in Afghanistan are to launch a campaign to take ‘full control’ over Kandahar city after their offensive to retake Marjah in Helmand, as reported by Reuters.
India-Pakistan talks were also initiated this week, widely being as little more than a gesture of re-engagement, with Pakistan no less intransigent than before.
At the same time, the tracking abilities of Pakistani security forces also seem to have suddenly improved with the arrest of high-value Taliban personalities.
Julian Borger, blogging on Global Security at The Guardian, writes that the attack might have been ‘aimed jointly at the Indo-Pakistani peace moves and a political settlement in Afghanistan’.
Dan Murphy, blogging on Global News at The Christian Science Monitor, refering to a Monitor report stating that ‘Pakistani intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Monitor this week that they’d arrested about half of the members of the Quetta Shura’, writes ‘Given the context, it’s hard to see today’s attacks in Kabul as anything other than retaliation and an attempt by the Taliban to show that they’re still potent, whatever their leadership losses recently’. He concludes by saying, ‘ What effect, if any, this attack will have on renewed efforts at Indian-Pakistani peace is uncertain’.