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ISKP claim explosion outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

In an image and video shared on social media, AW investigators visually confirmed at least 16 victims of the attack.


12 Jan 2023

At around 16:00 local time on January 11, 2023, an explosion was reported in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in the centre of Kabul. AW investigators verified that the explosion occurred near the front gate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, across from the Ministry of Information and Culture, near Malik Azghar Square, Police District 2, Kabul city centre. 

Various [WARNING: GRAPHIC] images of the aftermath of the explosion shared on social media confirm the location and the extent of the damage caused by the blast. 

According to Rateb Noori, an Agence France-Presse (AFP) staff member, a meeting with a Chinese delegation was underway within the ministry compound at the time of the explosion. A news article shared by AFP on Twitter claimed that Muhajer Farahi, the Deputy Minister of Information and Culture, in a conversation with AFP, said, “There was supposed to be a Chinese delegation at the Foreign Ministry today, but we don't know if they were present at the time of the blast”. Although other journalists online reported the same, there was no evidence of the presence of Chinese nationals within the MFA grounds.

According to Ahmad Muttaqi, the Deputy Director of the Office of Public & Strategic Affairs, who claimed to be at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the time of the explosion, a suicide bomber tried to enter the ministry but was discovered by Taliban security forces at the gate where he detonated the device. He stated, “There were no other foreign nationals or foreign gatherings”. 

The Chinese government held a press conference with the spokesperson for the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin. In the footage, shared online by China Daily, a news agency owned by the Chinese Government, an AFP journalist stated that “there was supposed to be a Chinese delegation at the MFA [on January 11, 2023]” and asked if there were any Chinese nationals among the victims. However, Wenbin did not clarify if a delegation was within the MFA grounds but stated that “no Chinese national was killed or injured in the incident”. 

RFI, a French news agency, talked to a ministry employee who claimed they were near the explosion site at the time of the blast. The witness, who remained anonymous, said that a man stopped his car in front of the MFA entrance claiming he had a flat tyre. Once the employees of the MFA left the gates, the man reportedly blew himself up. 

Analysis of the [WARNING: GRAPHIC] image showing the aftermath of the incident seems to indicate that the explosion was likely caused by either a Person-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (PBIED) or a place explosive [e.g. a large bag carrying explosives]. As highlighted in the image below, a blast marker can be seen on the ground in the centre of the road, in front of the ministry gate. 

The pattern seen above indicates the blast's origin; however, due to the image's quality, it is not possible to conduct a full analysis. No damaged vehicle is visible in the images, ruling out a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) or a mine set off by a moving vehicle. 

Ahmad Muttaqi’s claim, the witness who talked to the Rfi news agency, and AW’s analysis of the area indicate that a suicide bomber carried and detonated explosives. 

According to Khalid Zadran, the Kabul police spokesperson, the explosion killed five civilians. However, visual evidence suggests that the number is much higher. AW investigators visually confirmed at least 16 victims of the attack using an [WARNING: GRAPHIC] image and [WARNING: GRAPHIC] video

Stefano Sozza, Director of Emergency NGO, an organisation that provides medical aid in Afghanistan, claimed in a video that their hospital received 47 victims from the explosion. Three were dead on arrival. Furthermore, Sozza claimed that 19 were in critical condition with “injuries, mainly to the abdomen, the chest and the head”. This information also supports evidence that a suicide bomber was responsible for the explosion, as the impact was off the ground, on a level consistent with a person wearing an explosive vest.

On January 12, 2023, Mukhtar Wafayee, a journalist for the Independent Persian, shared a list containing the names of 16 people that died due to the blast. According to the information provided, most of the victims were staff members of the MFA, among them professionals in the finance department, IT department, and cultural relations department.

Abdul Haq Hammad, a Director of Media Monitoring at the Taliban’s Ministry of Information and Culture, also confirmed the death of at least one Taliban member called Shaheed Zahid, who, according to an online statement, was guarding the MFA gate at the time of the explosion. However, it is not clear how many of the victims were Taliban members and how many were civilians.

On the same day, Amaq, an Islamic State-affiliated news agency, published an article with a photo of the alleged attacker. The fighter, identified as Khaibar Kandahari, was depicted in front of the group’s flag, which contained distinctive embroidery, a feature not commonly seen on ISKP flags. The style is not dissimilar to embroidery used by the Kandahari people, as highlighted below.

The group claimed the attack on Telegram, stating:

By the grace of Allah Almighty, one of the martyrdom knights, the brother (Khaibar Kandahari) -may Allah Almighty accept him- set towards the foreign ministry of the Taliban militia in the middle of Kabul city, who was able to pass through all security barriers of the militia, and then detonated his explosive belt amongst the gathering of the employees and security guards, while they were leaving the main gate, which resulted in the killing of 20 of them including some diplomats, and injured dozens more, Praise be to Allah Almighty.”

Their statement confirms the explosion was carried out by a suicide bomber near the MFA gates when government workers were leaving the premises.

Various attacks targeting government workers have been reported in Kabul in the last year, some of which were later claimed by ISKP. The city centre and Shahre Naow areas of Kabul [PD2 and PD4], where many government offices are located, have not seen large-scale ISKP activity under the Taliban until recently. 

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