UAE mourns 5 diplomats killed in mysterious Afghan bombing

A view of the governor guest house building in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where a bomb blast killed mainly government officials or diplomats from the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday. (REUTERS/Ahamad Nadeem)
Updated 12 January 2017
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UAE mourns 5 diplomats killed in mysterious Afghan bombing

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan: The killing of five diplomats from the United Arab Emirates 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 federation of seven sheikhdoms, founded in 1971 on the Arabian Peninsula, 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.
The Taliban denied planting the bomb, even as the insurgents claimed other blasts Tuesday that killed at least 45 people. 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 told The Associated Press, 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.
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.
On the Afghan side, 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. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday condemned the attack and ordered an investigation.
The Taliban is usually quick to take credit for attacks, particularly those targeting the government or security forces. They claimed attacks earlier on Tuesday in Kabul at a compound of government and legislative offices that killed at least 38 people and wounded dozens. Another Taliban-claimed suicide bombing on Tuesday killed seven people in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province.
But on Wednesday, the Taliban issued a short statement blaming an “internal local rivalry” for the Kandahar attack.
The Taliban have denied some attacks in the past that diplomats and security forces later attributed to the group. Other insurgent groups, including an Islamic State affiliate, also operate Afghanistan.
A Taliban attack targeting Emirati officials would be surprising. The UAE was one of only three countries, along with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, to recognize the Taliban government during its five-year rule of Afghanistan.
Emirati combat troops deployed to Afghanistan after the 2001 US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban, who had harbored Al-Qaeda before and after the Sept. 11 attacks. The UAE had troops there for years as part of the NATO-led mission, training members of the Afghan armed forces and often winning the support of locals by praying with them in community mosques and respecting their traditions as fellow Muslims.
Multiple daily commercial flights link the countries, with Dubai serving as an important commercial hub for Afghan businessmen. Over the years, Taliban and Afghan officials also have met in Dubai to try to start peace talks.
Although the UAE is only 45 years old, Emirati diplomats have come under attack in the past, some felled by assassins’ bullets.
Saif Ghubash, the UAE’s first minister of state for foreign affairs, died after being shot in an October 1977 attack at Abu Dhabi International Airport, an attack that apparently targeted Syrian Foreign Minister Abdul-Halim Khaddam. Khaddam later blamed the attack on Iraq.
In 1984, the UAE’s ambassador to France was assassinated outside his Paris home by a gunman. A diplomatic club was named in honor of the slain envoy, Khalifa Al-Mubarak, in the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi, in 2015.
Another Emirati diplomat was wounded in a shooting in Rome in 1984. Reports at the time linked those two attacks to the Arab Revolutionary Brigades, a Palestinian militant group.
Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said Tuesday’s attack wouldn’t stop the UAE’s humanitarian efforts abroad.
He wrote on Twitter: “We will not be discouraged by despicable terrorist acts carried out by the forces of evil and darkness.”Amir Shah in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.


Toronto: Bodies and debris scattered over mile-long strip

Updated 21 min 26 sec ago
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Toronto: Bodies and debris scattered over mile-long strip

  • At least 10 people have died in the attack officials called “deliberate” but not linked to national security concerns
  • Toronto police have the suspect after a confrontation

TORONTO: The crime scene seems to go on forever, a taped off stretch of street scattered with bodies under orange sheets, urban debris and a pair of abandoned shoes.

Toronto police have arrived, and a suspect is under lock and key, but no one yet knows why the driver of a white rental van spread death and destruction under the warm spring sunshine.

“I heard screaming, yelling. I turned back and saw this truck going that way. He was going in and out, back and forth, zigzagging. He just kept on going,” said 42-year-old Rocco Cignielli.

There was nothing the customer service worker could do. Emergency services were on the scene quickly, but in some cases their efforts were in vain.

At least 10 people have died in the attack officials called “deliberate” but not linked to national security concerns.

“I saw there were people lying on the ground. I saw they were doing heart compression, and I saw two people dying right here in front of me,” Cignielli told AFP, pointing at the bodies.

It was shortly after 1 p.m. (1700 GMT) on a working Monday when the speeding van hit this commercial thoroughfare in a district of high-rise residences in the north of Canada’s biggest city.

A pale but cheery sun shone after a long and grim final winter stretch even by the region’s standards. Many local people were out and about.

Nana Agyeman Badu, a 56-year-old taxi driver, saw the van heading south toward central Toronto, where ministers from the G7 world powers were holding a security conference. Then the van swerved onto the sidewalk.

“I thought maybe he was making a delivery. But I was thinking, ‘Why would he drive in the pedestrian walkway like that?’ Very fast. Then I saw he had already run over some people,” the witness said.

“A lady was walking toward the car close to a bus shelter. The truck pinged the lady through the bus shelter and she fell back and all the broken glass fell onto her,” he added.

“I stopped and ran out to help her. The truck continued going and going and going.”

The truck smashed a yellow fire hydrant, a few newspaper dispensers and there, a bit further, lie a pair of sneakers.

“They belong to a victim,” a police officer said.

Some in a crowd that gathered by the police tape as dozens of rescue vehicles were deployed were dumbfounded. “It is a dangerous crossroads,” one woman suggested.

“Oh, it was no accident,” declared another passerby.