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Pakistan’s Top Diplomat in Afghanistan Survives Assassination Attempt

FILE - Security stands guard outside the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 4, 2019.
FILE - Security stands guard outside the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 4, 2019.

Pakistan’s chief diplomat in Afghanistan survived an assassination attempt Friday, but his security guard was critically injured.

Sources say Chargé d’affaires Ubaid-ur-Rehman Nizamani was on a routine afternoon walk on his residential lawn inside the sprawling embassy compound when unknown gunmen from a nearby building opened fire on him. The diplomat escaped unhurt, but his security guard was hit in the chest by three bullets, sources added.

A foreign ministry statement in Islamabad condemned what it called an attempted assassination of Nizamani. It demanded the Taliban government in Kabul immediately investigate the shooting and bring the culprits to justice. Pakistan also called on local authorities to take urgent measures to ensure the safety and security of its diplomatic mission, personnel and citizens in Afghanistan.

Taliban Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi said in a statement that his government strongly condemns “the failed firing attack” at the Pakistan embassy and that it will not allow “any malicious actors” to pose a threat to the security of diplomatic missions in the Afghan capital.

“Our security [agencies] will conduct a serious investigation, identify perpetrators and bring them to justice,” Balkhi said.

A police spokesman in Kabul said one suspect had been arrested and two light weapons seized after security forces swept a nearby building "and prevented the continuation of gunfire.”

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Pakistan called the Afghan chargé d’affaires to the foreign ministry late on Friday to convey its “deep concern and anguish” over the attack. It was underscored that “perpetrators of this attack must be apprehended and brought to justice urgently,” the statement said.

It urged Taliban authorities to boost security of diplomatic premises, officers and staff working in Kabul as well other diplomatic facilities in Afghanistan.

Pakistan and the world at large does not formally recognize Afghanistan’s Taliban government. Pakistan — along with China, Russia, Turkey, Qatar and several other countries — has, however, kept its embassy in Kabul open.

Friday’s attack comes just days after Pakistan’s deputy Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar visited the Afghan capital for bilateral meetings with Taliban leaders.

Last month a gunman disguised as a Taliban guard shot dead a Pakistani security officer at the southwestern Chaman border crossing between the two countries. The incident prompted Pakistan to temporarily suspend all movement across the busy crossing.

A suicide bombing near the entrance of Russian embassy in Kabul in September killed six people, including two Russian staff. The latest attack targeting a foreign diplomatic mission in the capital is likely to fuel security concerns for the diplomatic community in Kabul.