Three Spaniards, three Afghans killed in shooting in Afghanistan

Three Spaniards, three Afghans killed in shooting in Afghanistan
The attack is believed to be the first deadly assault on foreign tourists since the Taliban returned to power in 2021.
4 min read
Bamyan Province, Afghanistan on May 8, 2023. [Getty]

The bodies of three Spanish tourists and three Afghans shot dead while visiting a market in Afghanistan were transported to the capital where multiple wounded were also treated, the Taliban government said Saturday.

The group was fired on while shopping in the bazaar in the mountainous city of Bamiyan, around 180 kilometres (110 miles) from the capital Kabul, on Friday.

Anne-France Brill was one of the dozen foreign travellers on an organised tour who escaped unhurt. She described the terrifying seconds when a gunman on foot approached the group's vehicles and opened fire.

"There was blood everywhere," she told French news agency AFP from Dubai, where she landed Saturday after being evacuated from Kabul.

"One thing is certain," she said, the assailant "was there for the foreigners".

The attack is reportedly the first deadly assault on foreign tourists in Afghanistan since the Taliban returned to power in 2021.

The Taliban authorities said the bodies of those killed and the wounded had been transported to Kabul overnight Friday.

They were evacuated from Bamiyan by road as bad weather made an airlift impossible, diplomatic sources said.

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Italian NGO Emergency, which operates a hospital in Kabul, received the injured who it said were from Spain, Lithuania, Norway, Australia and Afghanistan.

"The wounded people arrived at our hospital at 3:00 am (2230 GMT Friday) this morning, about 10 hours after the incident took place," said Dejan Panic, Emergency's country director in Afghanistan, in a statement.

"The Afghan national was the most critically injured, but all patients are now stable," he added.

One of the wounded, a Spanish woman, had been seriously injured and underwent surgery in Kabul, the Spanish foreign ministry said.

Spain's government on Friday announced that three of the dead were Spanish tourists.

The dead also included three Afghans -- two civilians and a Taliban member, the government's interior ministry spokesman Abdul Mateen Qani said.

Local officials said the civilians were working with the tour group, while the Taliban security official had returned fire when the shooting broke out.

'Shocked and appalled'

"Overwhelmed by the news of the murder of Spanish tourists in Afghanistan," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez posted on social media platform X.

The bodies of the dead would likely be brought back to Spain on Sunday, according to the country's foreign minister Jose Manuel Albares, who spoke on Spanish public television TVE.

Spanish diplomats were headed to Afghanistan from Pakistan and Qatar, where the Spanish ambassador to the country is currently based, to facilitate the repatriation of the dead and transfer of the wounded, the foreign ministry said.

The Spanish embassy was evacuated in 2021, along with other Western missions, after the Taliban took back control of Kabul, ending a bloody decades-long insurgency against foreign forces.

Spanish authorities have also been coordinating with a European Union delegation in the capital.

Interior ministry spokesman Qani said seven suspects had been arrested, "of which one is wounded".

"The investigation is still going on and the Islamic Emirate is seriously looking into the matter," he added.

There has not yet been a claim of responsibility.

The EU condemned the attack "in the strongest terms".

The United Nations mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, said it was "deeply shocked and appalled by the deadly terrorist attack" in Bamiyan, adding it had provided assistance after the incident.

Fledgling tourism sector

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 kidnap and attack risks.

Alongside security concerns, the country has limited road infrastructure and a dilapidated health service.

Multiple foreign tourism companies offer package tours to Afghanistan, often including visits to highlights in cities such as Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif and Bamiyan.

Bamiyan is Afghanistan's top tourist destination, once home to the giant Buddha statues that were blown up by the Taliban in 2001 during their previous rule.

The number of bombings and suicide attacks in Afghanistan has fallen dramatically since the Taliban authorities took power, and deadly attacks on foreigners are rare.

However, a number of armed groups, including the Islamic State group, remain a threat.

The group has waged a campaign of attacks on foreign interests in a bid to weaken the Taliban government, targeting the Pakistani and Russian embassies as well as Chinese businessmen.