Suicide attack at the Russian Embassy in Kabul killing 2 diplomats

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber outside the Russian embassy in the Afghan capital Kabul killed two embassy staff and at least one Afghan civilian on Monday in a rare attack on a diplomatic mission. foreigner in Afghanistan.

The explosion occurred at the entrance to the embassy’s consular section, where Afghans were waiting for news about their visas, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry and state news agency RIA Novosti. A Russian diplomat had come out of the building to call the names of visa applicants when the explosion occurred, the agency said.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility on Monday night, saying a militant wearing an explosive belt detonated at the entrance to the embassy.

It was the latest in a string of bombings and other attacks since the Taliban seized power a year ago, toppling a Western-backed government and capping their 20-year insurgency .

Monday’s bombing, however, appears to be the first to target a foreign diplomatic mission in Kabul since the Taliban took power. The campaign of attacks has largely targeted Taliban positions or mosques of minority groups, particularly Shiites. They have been widely blamed on the Islamic State group’s affiliate in Afghanistan, which opposes the Taliban and harbors a virulent hatred of Shiites, viewing them as heretics.

It was not immediately clear why the militants were targeting the Russian embassy in particular.

The Russian mission is one of the few international missions still operating and providing consular services in Kabul – and the only European one. Most countries closed their embassies when the Taliban captured Kabul in August 2021 as the United States and NATO withdrew their troops. No country has recognized the Taliban government.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the explosion “a terrorist act, absolutely unacceptable”.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the embassy had tightened its security after the attack and that additional Taliban authorities, including intelligence officers, had been brought in.

“Let’s hope that the organizers of this terrorist act and its perpetrators will be punished,” Lavrov said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said an unknown militant detonated an explosive device just outside the entrance to the consular section. He said two members of the diplomatic mission were killed, “and there are also casualties among Afghan citizens.”

Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zadran said at least one Afghan civilian was killed and 10 others injured.

Zadran said security forces saw and shot the suicide bomber before he could approach the crowd outside the embassy. It was not immediately clear if the attacker was able to trigger the explosion before being shot, or if the shots detonated the explosives.

Attacks on embassies were rare even during the two-decade war between the Taliban and the Western-backed government. In 2017, the Taliban detonated a huge truck bomb in a neighborhood with many government buildings and embassies, killing more than 90 Afghans and heavily damaging the nearby German embassy. In 2015, a Taliban car bomb exploded near the Spanish Embassy, ​​killing a security guard.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in late June that Russia was trying to build relations with the Taliban and that Russia wanted to see all ethnic groups in Afghanistan participate in running the country.

Although Moscow has designated the Taliban as a terrorist group, the Taliban has representation in Russia and a delegation attended the recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

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Litvinova reported from Tallinn, Estonia.

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