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IS -K Claims Responsibility for Attack on Foreign Tourists in Bamiyan

VANCOUVER, CANADA – The Islamic State of Khurasan   (IS-K) has claimed responsibility for the May 17 attack on foreign tourists in Bamiyan province. IS-K issued a statement saying that its fighters targeted foreign tourists and Shia Muslims, a community the group has vowed to torment. The statement claimed that seven foreign tourists and five ‘Shia Hazaras’ were killed and injured in the attack.

On the evening of Friday, May 17, armed men opened fire at foreign tourists and their companions in the central province of Bamiyan. According to the Taliban’s Ministry of Interior, six people, including three foreign nationals and three Afghan citizens, were killed in the attack. Seven others, including four foreigners, were reportedly injured.

The victims were three Spanish citizens. The injured included one Spanish citizen, one Australian citizen, one Norwegian citizen, and one Lithuanian citizen.

Mohammad Khwani Rasa, spokesperson for the Taliban police in Bamiyan, also provided details about the victims’ identities, stating that two women were among those killed and two women were among the injured foreign nationals.

The Emergency Hospital in Kabul announced on Saturday, May 18, that five of the injured from the attack had been transferred to its surgical department.

Two days later, the Taliban’s Ministry of Interior stated that seven people were arrested in connection with the attack, but no details have been provided about their identities.

The attack on tourists in Bamiyan has sparked domestic and international reactions. From Afghan political figures such as Abdullah Abdullah and former President Hamed Karzai to foreign embassies and diplomatic units, many condemned the attacks.

Bamiyan, the home to the ancient Buddha statues, has largely been peaceful during the past two decades of Taliban insurgency against the former internationally backed government. Even as extremist groups such as the Islamic State set out to torment the Shias and Hazaras elsewhere, especially in the capital Kabul, the community in Bamiyan, a majority population in the province, continued to survive and even thrive in some ways.

Although poor, Hazaras in the province welcomed opportunities for education and nurtured cultural diversity and tolerance as a complex ideological conflict burned the rest of the country. Its quite landscape and its welcoming people attracted Afghans and internationals alike who were struck by what unbelievable haven in offered it midst of all the chaos and violence brewing around it.

Without good infrastructure or powerful political representatives in Kabul, tourism in Bamiyan offered a means of survival, not only economically but also socially. Continuous interactions with outsiders of all backgrounds helped the province stay true to its ancient roots, nurturing cultural diversity, artistic creativity, and social tolerance.

The Friday attack raises concerns that as the rest of Afghanistan is turning relatively quiet and accessible under the Taliban’s iron fist, Bamiyan might at last be at risk of losing its tranquillity. The implications of violence in Bamiyan will understandably be multifaceted for Hazaras who are losing their status in a Taliban controlled Afghanistan.

Hazara representatives and activists argue that the Friday attack by IS-K, a group the Taliban claims to have dismantled,  is more on the community’s socio-economic survival and their way of life than it is on European tourists.