'Forever in our hearts': Afghan envoy pays tribute to UAE officials killed in 2017 attack

Bombing claimed the lives of five diplomats and the UAE's ambassador to Afghanistan

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Afghanistan's ambassador to the UAE paid tribute to six Emiratis killed in a terrorist attack in Kandahar in 2017.

Javid Ahmad said the tragic events of January 10 served only to strengthen both countries' resolve against terrorism.

Speaking on Tuesday to mark the four-year anniversary of the blast, Mr Ahmad said the attack had failed in its attempt to deter Emirati solidarity with his country.

Five Emirati diplomats were in Afghanistan to carry out humanitarian work when a bomb went off as Kandahar's governor was meeting a UAE delegation at his guesthouse.

The UAE's ambassador to Afghanistan at the time, Juma Al Kaabi, was among the injured and died of his wounds later. The attack triggered international condemnation and flags flew at half staff in the UAE for three days.

Afghanistan will place a permanent memorial in the heart of Kandahar in memory of the late ambassador

"Afghanistan deeply appreciates and fondly remembers the ultimate sacrifices paid by our UAE brothers," Mr Ahmad told The National.

“Afghanistan will place a permanent memorial in the heart of Kandahar in memory of the late ambassador.

“The attack on that fateful day didn’t weaken the resolve of our UAE partners against the multilayered threat of terrorism. In fact, it has solidified our joint commitment to stand against all types of extremism."

In a wide-ranging interview with The National, Mr Ahmad said the attacks were an attempt to stop crucial humanitarian work but the terrorists failed.

“Development and humanitarian efforts by our Emirati and other partners have continued undeterred,” he said.

During an Afghanistan pledging conference in Geneva on November 23, the UAE was among the many countries to support Afghanistan with more than $12 billion over the next four years.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Ahmad Javid, Afghani ambassador to the United Arab Emirates at Embassy of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Khushnum Bhandari for The National
Javid Ahmad, pictured in the Afghan embassy in Abu Dhabi, paid tribute to six Emirati diplomats who died in the January 2017 Kandahar bombing. Khushnum Bhandari for The National

This “sends a clear message to the Taliban that the world stands with Afghanistan”, the ambassador said.

The UAE and Afghanistan established diplomatic relations in 1973. The Emirates has supported Afghanistan with substantial financial aid and humanitarian assistance throughout some difficult years. Scores of infrastructure projects in the country were financed by the UAE.

Mr Ahmad touched on growing trade, security and aviation ties. Trade between the two countries was estimated at $1.8bn before the coronavirus pandemic.

Afghanistan's four international airports are managed by UAE companies – Abu Dhabi Airports Company, G42 and Afroport.

"They are doing an excellent job," Mr Ahmad said. "They brought the UAE's competitive and comparative advantages."

Afghanistan has also signed a deal with Siemens Energy in the UAE to develop its “energy hub and electric grid system”.

“And down the road we will be investing in renewable energy and we are in discussion with our UAE partners [regarding that]."

Plans for co-operation in the mining sector are gathering pace with six agreements already signed. Afghanistan is rich in mineral resources, and Mr Ahmad pointed to its supplies of lithium – crucial for batteries that power smartphones and electric cars – as one area of co-operation.

The partnership with the UAE will be exclusive in the mining sector, he said.

“In general, we have a huge lithium supply but we also have gold, copper and hydrocarbon, among other rare earth minerals.

"A suite of other long-term programmes is under discussion, involving energy, mining, agriculture and digital governance,” he said.

“I am happy to say that the appetite and potential for this partnership to expand is vast.”