Amid tensions, gun attack targets Pakistan's envoy in Kabul

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Shots were fired Friday at the Pakistani embassy in Afghanistan in what Pakistan’s prime minister described as an attempt to assassinate his country’s envoy in Kabul. The envoy was not harmed, but a body guard was wounded, Pakistani officials said.

A prominent politician and warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, also escaped unhurt a separate attack in the Afghan capital on Friday, his office said.

The attack on Pakistan's embassy in Kabul comes at a time of rising tensions between the neighboring countries. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif called the shooting an “assassination attempt” against Pakistan's representative in the country, in a tweet he posted.

Pakistan's foreign ministry said in a statement that the assailants had failed to harm its head of mission Ubaid-ur-Rehman Nizamani but shot and “critically injured" a security guard. The statement said “the compound of the Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul came under attack” without providing further details.

The shooting comes a day after Pakistan demanded Afghanistan’s Taliban government prevent terrorist attacks being organized from their soil. Pakistani Taliban, who are allied with their namesake's across the border and shelter in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing earlier in the week in southwestern Pakistan that sent a wave of shock and anger across the nation.

The bombing killed four people and appeared to target police protecting polio workers in the area.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry summoned a senior Afghan diplomat in Islamabad over the embassy attack, according to a ministry statement. The ministry said that the protection of its diplomatic mission was the responsibility of Afghanistan's Taliban government and that the attack was an “extremely serious security lapse".

Earlier, Mumtaz Zehra, the ministry spokesman, said Pakistan will not close its embassy or recall diplomatic staff from Kabul.

Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi strongly condemned the embassy attack, and said that the Taliban will not allow any “malicious actors to pose a threat to the security of diplomatic missions in Kabul”.

“Our security will conduct a serious investigation, identify perpetrators and bring them to justice,” added Balkhi.

Kabul’s police chief spokesman Khalid Zadran said that shots were fired from a building near the Pakistani embassy. Police have detained a suspect believed to have been in the building from where shots were fired at the embassy, he added.

A prominent politician and warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, also escaped unhurt a separate attack in Kabul on Friday, his office said in a statement. Security guards killed the two attackers as they tried to enter a mosque where Hekmatyar and his supporters had gathered for Friday prayers, the statement said.

Hekmatyar later said in a video message that the attackers were suicide bombers disguised in women's burqas who intended to blow him up.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for either of the attacks in Kabul.

Hekmatyar, who battled U.S. forces after the 2001 invasion and nursed a bitter rivalry with other Afghan factions, agreed to lay down arms in 2017 and join a peace deal with former President Ashraf Ghani.

Hekmatyar stayed in Kabul after the Taliban took power last year, even as Ghani and other leaders fled.

The former warlord battled the Soviets in the 1980s and then took part in the civil war that erupted after their withdrawal, clashing with the so-called Northern Alliance, before the Taliban drove their rivals out of Kabul in the late 1990s.

The Taliban returned to power last year in Kabul as the last U.S. and NATO troops withdrew from Afghanistan.


Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed contributed to this story.