The UAE Ambassador to Afghanistan Juma Al Kaabi arrived in Abu Dhabi aboard a military plane on Thursday to receive further treatment from injuries suffered in a bombing in Kandahar.
Mr Al Kaabi was accompanied by another UAE Embassy official and an Afghan translator who were also injured in Tuesday’s attack, which Afghan officials now say was carried out with help from outside the country.
The injured men were received at the airport by Fares Al Mazrouei, the UAE Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for Security and Military Affairs, Mohammed Al Raisi, Under Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and officials from the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, the Armed Forces and other state institutions.
Five Emiratis were among at least 11 people killed when explosives placed under a sofa went off as the Kandahar governor was entertaining a UAE delegation at his guesthouse.
The attack followed bombings earlier on Tuesday that killed at least 38 people near the parliament in Kabul, and seven people in Helmand province.
The Taliban claimed the other attacks but denied involvement in the Kandahar bombing, but Afghan security officials insisted on Thursday that the group was responsible and had received foreign assistance.
“This is an act of enemy which involves the help of a foreign hands. The materials which were used in the attack, are not produced in Afghanistan,” said Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar, who visited Kandahar on Wednesday to investigate the attack.
The office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) is certain the Taliban carried out the attack, its communications director The National.
“The government of Afghanistan sees a clear connection between all three attacks of Tuesday,” Tawab Ghorzang said. “We have enough information to confirm the attacks in Kabul, Helmand and Kandahar to have been conducted by the same group, the Taliban.”
Mr Ghorzang said the only reason the Taliban would deny responsibility for the Kandahar attack was because UAE diplomats were among the victims. “They do not want to be associated with hurting representatives of Islamic countries, but we are confident that it is their work,” he said.
Backing the NSA’s claim, the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces released a statement on Thursday evening claiming that Taliban leaders based in Quetta city, in Pakistan, were responsible for the Kandahar attack.
“Taliban Quetta Shura is behind the attack. It was planned in Mawlawi Ahmad Madrassa in Chaman, Quetta,” said Sediq Sediqqi, spokesperson for the Afghan interior ministry.
The Afghan government has long accused Pakistan of harbouring terrorist groups such as the Taliban, an accusation Islamabad denies. However, conflicting information from official sources has added to ambiguity over the details of the attack. A source from the Kandahar governor’s office said a team from the UAE was likely to conduct its own investigation into the incident.
While the Taliban message denying involvement said “local rivalries” may have been behind the bombing, General Abdul Raziq, the security chief of Kandahar province, has suggested the Haqqani Network, another powerful insurgent group in the region with close ties to the Pakistan’s intelligence agency, may have been responsible.
“An intelligence report from a couple of months ago indicated that the Haqqani Network, along with Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI, had been planning a similar attack,” he said on Wednesday.
The report had suggested possible attacks on provincial government and military leaderships, he said.
“A number of labourers who were working at the guesthouse, which was under renovation, have been arrested on suspicion of having planted the bomb,” added Gen Raziq, who was at the guesthouse but said he stepped out minutes before the bomb went off to offer evening prayers.
* With additional reporting from Wam