China advised its citizens in Afghanistan on Tuesday to leave the country “as soon as possible”, following a coordinated attack by Islamic State militants the previous day on a Chinese-owned hotel in the heart of Kabul.
The Chinese warning appeared to be a setback for Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers who seek foreign investment in hopes of halting the downward spiral of the Afghan economy since their takeover of the country more than a year ago.
The Islamic State militant group – a key rival of the Taliban – has claimed responsibility for Monday afternoon’s attack on the Kabul Longan Hotel, which left three assailants dead and at least two hotel guests injured as they tried to flee. jumping from a window.
Plumes of smoke rose from the 10-story building in the central Shar-e Naw district, according to images posted on social media as the attack unfolded. Residents reported explosions and gunfire.
Taliban forces rushed into the area and blocked all roads leading to the site. Khalid Zadran, the Taliban-appointed spokesman for Kabul’s police chief, said the attack lasted several hours, followed by a cleanup operation.
HOTEL ATTACK IN THE CAPITOL OF AFGHANISTAN, 21 DEAD
On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin called the attack “egregious in nature” and said China was “deeply shocked”.
Beijing called for “a thorough investigation” and urged the Taliban government “to take resolute and strong measures to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens, institutions and projects in Afghanistan,” Wang said.
The Chinese embassy in Kabul has sent its team to the scene to help with the rescue, treatment and accommodation of victims of the attack, Wang added.
“In view of the current security situation in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has again advised Chinese citizens and institutions in Afghanistan to evacuate Afghanistan as soon as possible,” Wang said.
The Taliban invaded the country in August 2021, seizing power as US and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their final withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of war.
Since their takeover, the international community has refused to extend official recognition to former rebels who have broken promises to pursue a more moderate path, including reopening schools to girls beyond the sixth grade and safeguarding minority rights.
BARON HOTEL IN AFGHANISTAN: WHAT WE KNOW
The Taliban government also recently issued statements saying it intends to apply Islamic law, or sharia, as it did when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s. In recent weeks, the Taliban has carried out executions and public floggings on several occasions of people convicted by Taliban courts of crimes such as murder and adultery.
China has economic and mining interests in the country, although those familiar with past talks between the Taliban and Chinese officials say Beijing wants Taliban pledges to prevent China’s Uyghur opponents from setting up operations in Afghanistan.
Chinese companies, with strong government backing, have attempted to seize opportunities to exploit Afghanistan’s vast deposits of undeveloped resources, especially the Mes Aynak mine which is believed to contain the world’s largest copper deposit.
In October, Taliban-appointed government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid singled out China as a key part of Afghanistan’s economic development. China has also revealed its aspirations to play a leading role in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US forces.
There was no information about the identity of the injured Chinese guests at the Kabul hotel or what they were doing in Afghanistan.
The IS statement, reported by one of the militant Telegram channels used by the group, said two of its members targeted the hotel because it is frequented by diplomats and owned by “communist China”.
He further said that the IS attackers detonated two bags of explosives that had been left in the hotel earlier, including one in the main hall, and set fire to part of the hotel. The militant group has offered no evidence for its claims.
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There have been conflicting reports on the number of casualties. Taliban officials said three attackers were killed; the IS claim claims that only two of its members took part in the attack, identifying them by name and publishing their photographs. According to Mujahid, the Taliban government spokesman, two foreign residents were injured when they jumped from the hotel windows.
However, Kabul Emergency Hospital said in a tweet on Monday that it had received 21 victims, including the bodies of three people.
IS’s regional affiliate, known as Islamic State in Khorasan province, has ramped up its attacks since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021.