The killing of five diplomats from the UAE in a bombing in southern Afghanistan marks the deadliest attack ever for the young nation’s diplomatic corps, though it’s too soon to tell who was behind it or if the Gulf envoys were even the targets.
The UAE said it would fly the nation’s flag at half-staff for three days in honor of the dead from the attack Tuesday in Kandahar.
Afghan security officials began investigating Tuesday’s attacks in Kabul and Kandahar as the death toll climbed to 57.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia strongly condemned the brutal attacks, which hit a number of Afghan cities in contradiction with the Islamic values.
During a telephone call to the UAE leadership, the monarch paid condolences and expressed solidarity with the Afghan leaders, people and families of the victims, wishing the injured a quick recovery.
Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also the UAE prime minister and vice president, offered condolences for the families of the dead and condemned the attack.
“There is no human, moral or religious justification for the bombing and killing of people trying to help” others, he wrote on Twitter.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani spoke by telephone with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, expressing condolences and stressing the need to redouble efforts to counter terrorism, a statement said.
Ghani’s national security adviser, Hanif Atmar, traveled to Kandahar on Wednesday to launch an investigation.
The UN, meanwhile, condemned the “unprincipled, unlawful and deplorable attacks,” which it said would make peace more difficult to achieve.
“Those responsible for these attacks must be held accountable,” said Pernille Kardel, the UN secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan.
The Taliban denied planting the bomb, even as the insurgents claimed other blasts Tuesday. No other group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Kandahar, a province in Afghanistan’s Taliban heartland.
The bomb targeted a guesthouse of Kandahar Gov. Homayun Azizi, who was wounded in the assault along with UAE Ambassador Juma Mohammed Abdullah Al-Kaabi.
The attack killed 11 people and wounded 18, said Gen. Abdul Razeq, Kandahar’s police chief, who was praying nearby at the time of the blast.
Razeq said investigators believe someone hid the bomb inside a sofa at the guesthouse. He said an ongoing construction project there may have allowed militants to plant the bomb.
“Right now we cannot say anything about who is behind this attack,” he said, while adding that several suspects had been arrested.
On Wednesday, broken glass from the powerful blast still littered the blood-stained ground outside of the guesthouse, with thick black soot still visible on the building. Some furniture sat outside, apparently moved as part of the construction.
Afghan authorities said the dead included two lawmakers, a deputy governor from Kandahar and an Afghan diplomat stationed at its embassy in Washington.
The attack inside the heavily guarded compound represents a major breach of security, even in Afghanistan, a country long torn by war.