Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities said Monday they had arrested a foreign operative of the Islamic State militant group for allegedly carrying out last week’s failed assassination attempt on Pakistan’s chief diplomat in the country.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed in a statement, citing initial investigations, that Friday’s gun assault on Pakistani Chargé d’affaires Ubaid-ur-Rehman Nizamani in Kabul was plotted with the aim of sowing distrust with Islamabad.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement that two gunmen from its regional affiliate, Islamic State Khorasan Province or ISIS-K, had carried it out.
Mujahid wrote on Twitter the detainee “is a foreign country national and a member of Daesh.” He used a local name for ISIS-K but did not say what country the suspect was from. The spokesman asserted that the assault was jointly planned by ISIS-K and anti-Taliban forces.
Pakistani officials said Nizamani was on a routine afternoon walk inside the embassy compound when gunmen opened fire on him from a nearby building. He escaped unhurt, but his Pakistani security guard was hit in the chest and both legs by bullets.
“Some foreign groups are behind the attack and the intention was to create distrust between the two brotherly countries,” Mujahid said. He added the investigation into the shooting incident was continuing and promised to share future details later.
ISIS-K has stepped up high-profile bombings and other terrorist attacks in Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power last year. The violence has killed top Taliban clerics and hundreds of members of the minority Shiite community. The terrorist group also claimed responsibility for a September suicide bombing near the Russian embassy in Kabul that killed two Russian staff and four Afghan visitors.
Pakistan, which shares a nearly 2,600-kilometer border with Afghanistan, has long maintained close ties with the Islamist Taliban. It was one of the three countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, that had formally recognized the previous Taliban government in Kabul from 1996 to 2001.
Over the past 20 years, the Pakistani military was routinely accused of sheltering and covertly supporting Taliban fighters as they waged an insurgency against U.S.-led NATO troops providing security to the internationally backed former Afghan government.
The Islamist insurgents regained control of Afghanistan in August 2021 when all foreign troops withdrew from the country and the U.S.-trained Afghan security forces collapsed.
No country has yet recognized the Taliban’s rule, but Islamabad has boosted its economic and trade partnership with Kabul to help it deal with the dire humanitarian and financial challenges facing Afghanistan.
Bilateral relations in recent months, however, have become strained over concerns fugitive militants linked to the Pakistani offshoot of the Afghan Taliban have stepped up attacks in Pakistan from Afghan bases since the Taliban takeover.