Five Emiratis carrying out humanitarian work were killed in a terrorist bomb attack in Afghanistan on Tuesday.
The dead were named on Wednesday as Mohammed Ali Zainal Al Bastaki, Abdullah Mohammed Essa Obaid Al Kaabi, Ahmed Rashid Salim Ali Al Mazroui, Ahmed Abdul Rahman Ahmad Al Tunaiji, and Abdul Hamid Sultan Abdullah Ibrahim Al Hammadi.
The UAE ambassador to Afghanistan, Juma Al Kaabi, was also injured in the explosion, in Kandahar, as reported earlier.
President Sheikh Khalifa, mourning the deaths, called for flags to be lowered to half mast for three days at all ministries, government departments and institutions to honour those killed, reported state news agency Wam.
In Kandahar, two explosions inside the heavily guarded governor’s compound killed 12 people and wounded 18 others — including the UAE ambassador and governor Homayun Azizi. The bomb was hidden inside a sofa. At least 52 people were killed in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and the south in a day of widespread violence. The Taliban, which had admitted to the bomb blasts in Kabul, denied planting a bomb in the Kandahar attack. The group issued a short statement on Wednesday blaming an “internal local rivalry”.
The ambassador was in Kandahar to lay the foundation stone for the UAE-funded Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan orphanage and to sign an agreement with Kardan University for the UAE to offer scholarships there
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said: “It is with pride that we mourn today the martyrs of Emirati humanitarian work in Afghanistan.
“Five martyrs have given their lives while striving to serve the weak, the children and the needy.
“There is no humane, moral or religious justification behind the explosion and the killing of those who seek to help others. May God grant mercy on their souls.
“The Emirati people are proud of their sons who work in the humanitarian field and the country raises its head up high today for the martyrs who fell in the name of humanity unknown to those terrorists.”
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, said: “Abhorrent acts of terror conducted by forces of evil and darkness won’t deter us from walking the path of giving and charity.
“Their criminal actions won’t terrorise us nor force us to abandon our humanitarian principles, including extending a helping hand to nations.
“We lost our heroes as they carried out their humanitarian mission. They are a source of pride for our nation. May God bless their souls.”
Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed, Representative of President Sheikh Khalifa, expressed his sorrow on the death of the “innocent sons of the nation who worked in the humanitarian field and have met their fate in yesterday’s terrorist attack”. He said the country’s leadership and people were proud of its sons who died in the line of duty and condemned the attack, saying it was a cowardly action which goes against all religious and moral values.
Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, Deputy Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, said: “Losing martyrs on the path of good and supporting our brothers in humanity marks the difference between the white hands of the UAE and the black hands of terror.
“Sheikh Zayed’s UAE always believes that giving does not come without sacrifice and our martyrs today in Kandahar have been added to the UAE’s record, on the blank pages of might and glory.”
Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, offered his condolences in a tweet, stating: “May God have mercy on their souls. May God grant their families patience and solace.”
Internationally, the attacks triggered widespread condemnation. The UN Security Council, France, the GCC and Jordan were among the first to denounce Tuesday’s attacks and express solidarity with the UAE and government of Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism and extremism.
The United Nations extended its condolences to the families of the victims and wished a swift recovery to those injured. In its statement, the UN said: “Indiscriminate attacks against civilians, including diplomatic envoys, are violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and cannot be justified.”
Qatar’s ministry of foreign affairs said: “The state of Qatar condemns this criminal act which aims to destabilise security and stability in Afghanistan, and it affirms its solidarity with the UAE and its people.”
The foreign ministry in Kuwait, quoted by the Kuwait News Agency, said: “This terrorist crime, which targeted the noble humanitarian action and those supervising it, showed again how the menace of terrorism has been targeting mankind and those seeking well-being of others.”
A spokesperson at the White House also condemned the attack saying: “An attack on parliamentary facilities and lawmakers is clearly an assault on Afghanistan’s efforts to build democratic institutions.”
The US embassy in Abu Dhabi condemned the attack in the “strongest possible terms”. A spokesman said: “An attack on any diplomat is an attack on the right of all diplomats to safely and securely advance and represent their nations around the world. The United States stands with the people of Afghanistan and the UAE as they fight to counter terrorism.”
The UAE Ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, said the attacks would not stop the UAE from continuing its humanitarian presence in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world.
“There is little you can do to avoid such attacks, unless you do a better job in security, but this happens every day in Iraq ... so the question is not how we avoid it.
“Will it affect our policy in Afghanistan? Will we reconsider sending humanitarian efforts? Of course not.”
The UAE is used to carrying on humanitarian and development efforts despite unfortunate events, this is the policy inherited since the days of Sheikh Zayed, he said.
Philip Parham, UK ambassador to the UAE, said his country was “horrified” by the attack on diplomats conducting a humanitarian mission.
“It demonstrated the cowardice and inhumanity of its perpetrators. Our deep sympathy is with the victims, and their family, friends and colleagues,” said Mr Parham.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Emirati allies against the threats which we both face in Afghanistan and around the world.”