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Attack on VP Saleh on Eve of Peace Talks Sparks Intl Outcry

A blast targeted the convoy of First Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Wednesday morning in the Taimani area of Kabul city. VP Saleh survived, sustaining only minor injuries, but the MoI said at least 10 people were killed and 16 were wounded, while other sources say the number of casualties--both dead and wounded--is significantly higher.

The attack comes as the intra-Afghan attacks are expected to start within a week's time, and both Afghan leaders and members of the international community have publicly expressed biting condemnation of the attack.

Some analysts speculate that the attack was retaliation for a candid interview given by Saleh to TOLOnews on Sunday, which was critical of the Taliban.

Tariq Arian, Interior Ministry spokesman, said 10 were killed and 16 were wounded in the Kabul blast targeting Saleh's convoy, and reported that the explosives were placed in a cart and were detonated when Saleh's convoy passed by.

Other security sources have said the number of dead is as high as twenty, and the number of wounded as high as 50.

The Presidential Palace in a statement condemned the attack on First VP Saleh’s convoy and said that such attacks will not weaken the strong will of the people for peace and that the security and defense forces will continue to fight terrorism.

Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, visited Saleh after the incident and issued a statement condemning the attack and calling for a serious investigation.

“The attack on the first VP took place on the eve of peace talks when our message--and the people's message--is peace. The hidden enemies do not want peace and stability for Afghanistan." Abdullah tweeted.

Former President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack and said that he hopes negotiations between Afghans will begin soon and that the Afghan people will be saved from the ongoing pain, suffering and crisis by establishing peace and security in the country.

The Afghan government's chief negotiator in the upcoming peace talks, Masoom Stanekzai, called the attack "unjustifiable" and called for an end to the violence.

“The attack on Saleh, the First Vice President, is unjustifiable. Sadly. This attack takes place at a time when our people are desperately looking for peace,” said Stanekzai.

Mohammed Umer Daudzai, the president’s special envoy to Pakistan, also condemned the attack on first VP Saleh.

Haneef Atmar, the acting foreign minister, tweeted: “I condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly terrorist attack on Saleh, the first vice president. The enemies cannot hinder the peace process with such attacks. Our determination to achieve peace is unbreakable.”

International Reactions:

The international community condemned the attack and expressed their support for the Afghan government, with some calling the attackers 'spoilers' of the peace process.

India strongly condemned the attack on Saleh’s convoy, with External Affairs Ministry Spokesman Anurag Srivastava saying that India stands with Afghanistan in the fight to "eradicate terror infrastructure" to create "enduring peace in the country."

Pakistan’s foreign ministry also condemned the attack on Saleh’s convoy.

EU representatives in Kabul strongly condemned the "cowardly attack" against First Vice President Saleh.

"We are glad that he remains unharmed. This is an attack on the Republic, and a desperate act by spoilers of peace efforts, who must be collectively confronted. Condolences to the affected families," said the EU in Afghanistan tweet.

NATO's senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, Stefano Pontecorvo, in a tweet condemned the attack on First VP Saleh, saying: "The enemies of peace continue to ignore the will of the Afghan people to stop violence and start intra-Afghan negotiations.”

UNAMA head Deborah Lyons, tweeted: “Relieved to hear Saleh survived today’s deplorable attack. Shocked by initial high number of civilian casualties, mainly bystanders. Perpetrators must face justice."

US Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson on Twitter said he was "shocked" by today’s attack on Saleh’s convoy, and added: “We strongly support efforts that we hope begin soon in Doha toward lasting peace and an end to this kind of violence.”

The German embassy in Kabul on Twitter said such acts are never acceptable and can only be seen as attempts to spoil the Afghan peace process.

Canada’s ambassador to Afghanistan Dave Metcalfe in a tweet condemned the attack on Saleh’s convoy, saying: "Nobody, including those who are working tirelessly to bring peace to this country, should suffer from such unnecessary violence."

The French embassy in Kabul condemned the blast on Twitter, calling it a "terrorist attack," and offered condolences to "all those who are affected by this heinous act."

So far no group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Taliban issued a statement denying involvement in the blast.

This is the second time that First VP Amrullah Saleh has survived an attack.

On July 27, 2019, the office of the political group Green Trend, which Saleh heads, was attacked while Saleh was meeting with members of the group. It happened the day before the presidential election campaign started in the country. It left over 20 people dead and over 50 wounded.

At least four attackers were involved in the siege which started with a car bombing around 4:40 pm Kabul time on Sunday. It targeted the Green Trend office, a political movement run by Mr. Saleh, in Shaheed Circle in Kabul’s PD4, in an area surrounded by civilian houses, a university, and a small township.

Mr. Saleh was in his office among approximately 100 people when the attack happened. He was quickly evacuated from the area.