UAE not the target of Kandahar bomb blast, security analysts say

ABU DHABI // The bomb blast that shook Kandahar on Tuesday night was most probably directed at the province’s governor, Homayun Azizi, security experts said.

Although they said it might be too early to reach firm conclusions, they believed the attack was the result of a feud.

“This is the internal struggle between the different groups in Afghanistan,” said Dr Mustafa Alani, head of security and terrorism at the Gulf Research Centre. “Those people don’t care who is with him or what the collateral casualties are, as long as they can reach him.

“So the UAE has nothing to do with this and it has no reason to have enemies in Afghanistan.”

The UAE had always kept a low profile among international forces during their military operation in the country, he said.

“They were mainly peace-keeping forces and now they are working on the civilian side of rebuilding Afghanistan, so it’s definitely not directed against the UAE,” Dr Alani said.

“There is a dispute between the governor and other groups, not necessarily the Taliban. There is a personal attitude towards certain personalities and assassination is very common in Afghanistan nowadays.”

Dr Alani said: “There are conflicts over the position of power between different groups. Afghanistan isn’t subtle, even within the groups that came to power. If you look at the presidency, you have two people who are practically president so these are groups fighting for position and power and assassination is one of the most common ways to settle scores with other people.”

Dr Alani believed Mr Azizi probably knew who the perpetrators were and that he and the UAE Ambassador, Juma Al Kaabi, survived “because they were both sitting away from the actual bomb and the main impact hit other members of the delegation”.

Ahmed Al Attar, assistant director of defence and security at Abu Dhabi think tank the Delma Institute, said it was unclear whether the attack was directly targeted at the UAE but it was safe to assume that whoever did it had some intelligence on the event and attendees.

“Perhaps it was taken as an opportunity to target [the UAE] but it’s typical behaviour of radical groups to target soft spots, which are areas of international connection between countries like in meetings or cross-departmental and cross-state action,” he said. “It presents an interesting target, from their perspective.

“Bombs give them publicity, it communicates that they’re an active, powerful player.

“The strategic logic, in addition to maximising losses, is to show power, because what’s more powerful than to attack an Afghan politician and an ambassador?”

Sabahat Khan, senior analyst at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said that although it was too early to reach firm conclusions, the initial assessment is that it is unlikely those behind the attacks would seek to target UAE officials.

“We know the Taliban have not done this before,” he said.

“The UAE diplomats may have been caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time in the line of duty.”

Dr Alani said that the Taliban tended to target their victims by suicide attack or car bombs, not within the confines of high-security areas such as the governor’s compound.