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Security: Tourists shot by gunmen in Bamyan attack claimed by ISKP

An armed attack took place in Bamyan city, confirmed by Taliban officials, which killed three Spanish tourists and three Afghans, and injured seven others. It was claimed by ISKP as targeting Christian coalition citizens and their Shiite companions.


24 May 2024

On 17 May 2024, numerous prominent local media outlets, including Aamaj News and Etilaatroz, reported an armed attack on foreign tourists and Afghan citizens in Bamyan. According to Ali Hussaini, a senior journalist for BBC Persian, the incident took place at 18:10 local time in the Sarak-e Naw area of Bamyan city. 

AW investigators geolocated the incident to the market area in central Bamyan city, as seen below.

Figure: Geolocation of pictures showing the aftermath of the attack on the foreign tourists and their Afghan handlers in Bamyan [34.8246461, 67.8280687].

The attack was confirmed by the Spokesperson for the Taliban’s Governor in Bamyan Saboor Sighani, and the Spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior Affairs Mufti Abdul Mateen Qani. Qani stated that, as a result of the shooting: “three foreigners, including one Afghan, were killed, and four foreigners, including three Afghans, were injured,” for a total of four deceased and four injured. This was later amended to three foreigners and three Afghans killed. 

Qani added that security forces arrested four people in connection with the incident. On 18 May 2024, the Taliban’s Al-Mirsad propaganda outlet named Sarwar, son of Qanbar Ali, a native of Bamiyan, as the main assailant in the attack. According to Al-Mirsad, Sarwar is Hazara and was arrested, found in hiding, after the incident.

A list of victims, allegedly obtained by the BBC, confirmed that the tourists were citizens of Spain, Norway, Australia, and Lithuania. The killed foreign nationals were reportedly identified as Spanish citizens from Catalunya, reportedly including a mother and daughter. According to Catalan and Basque media, an 82-year-old Spanish citizen from the Basque Country was also identified as having been injured in the attack, alongside an unnamed 60-year-old Norwegian man, a 38-year-old Australian man, and a 36-year-old Lithuanian woman. AfghanistanSola, a pro-Taliban social media user, shared a photo of the Australian victim, recovering in a Kabul hospital.

Social media users shared pictures from the scene, showing the alleged location of the incident. In one picture, the bodies of two deceased individuals can be seen lying on the ground, next to a vehicle. In another video, which circulated online, two deceased bodies, at least one of which was male, can be seen being carried and put into a Bamyan Provincial Hospital Ambulance vehicle. It was not possible to determine the gender of the second body, or whether the deceased were Afghan citizens or tourists.

ISKP claims the attack

The attack was claimed by the Islamic State Khorasan (ISKP) on 19 May 2024, in a statement issued through Islamic State's Amaq News Agency. The statement confirmed that the group’s militants targeted a “tourist bus for citizens of coalition countries,” while they were touring in the city of Bamyan. The statement, while quoting security sources, added that the fighters “targeted Christian tourists and their Shiite companions with machine guns,” in response to IS leaders’ directives from January 2024, to target nationals of coalition countries “wherever they are.” The announcement highlighted that Bamyan is a major destination for Christian and pagan tourists because of the massive Buddha statues which were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

In recent months, numerous travellers and tourists from various countries posted content on social media about their visits to Afghanistan. The Taliban has increasingly encouraged international tourism in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan by promising security and safety to foreign travellers, and according to pro-Taliban media outlet Hurriyat, more than 3,300 tourists visited Afghanistan in February 2024. 

Despite the Taliban courting foreign tourism dollars, it is likely that tourists continue to be a target for ISKP militants in Afghanistan, as the group has historically targeted foreign nationals, both before the Taliban takeover, and afterwards. For example, in December 2022, ISKP claimed an attack on the Chinese-owned Longan Hotel in Kabul, targeting Chinese nationals. Moreover, the Khorasan Diary claims that ISKP threatened foreign tourists in Afghanistan in December 2023 in one of the group’s propaganda booklets.

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