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Islamic State Khurasan’s History of Targeting Diplomatic Missions
On September 5, the Islamic State Khurasan Province (ISKP) infiltrated the Taliban’s security net and conducted a suicide bombing against Russia’s embassy in Kabul. The attack killed two Russian embassy staff workers and at least four others. The operation followed months of intensified hostile rhetoric against Russia and explicit threats to attack its interests.
Embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions are high-profile targets for the Islamic State (IS) organization and its regional ISKP branch in Af-Pak. Following the September 5 operation, IS in its weekly al-Naba newsletter discussed the importance of attacking embassies, which they referred to as “spy dens” that have a key function in the Crusaders’ intelligence operations and military campaigns in Muslim countries.
ISKP has a history of plotting against and attacking diplomatic targets in Afghanistan. In January 2016, ISKP claimed an inghimasi operation that targeted the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad. The operation involved three militants, with one of them detonating his explosive vest outside of the consulate and opening the way to the other two.
More recently, in July 2021 the group assassinated an employee of the same Pakistani consulate with pistol shots while he was driving his car, while later in September, ISKP conducted a series of bombings in Jalalabad near the Indian consulate, killing several Taliban fighters who were in the vicinity.
Following the August 26, 2021, Kabul airport suicide attack that caused hundreds of casualties and killed 13 US service members, two Pakistani nationals were reportedly arrested in possession of an explosive device outside the Turkmenistan embassy in Kabul. The sources on this incident are thin, however, such a plot would match ISKP’s modus operandi.
After the Islamic State’s split with Al-Qaeda and the movement’s global expansion, its operatives and followers occasionally plotted attacks against diplomats, embassies, and consulates.
In 2015, the Islamic State bombed an Italian consulate in Cairo, attacked an Algerian embassy in Libya, hit the US consulate in Erbil with a VBIED, and plotted against the US consulate in Turkey and the US embassy in Saudi Arabia. Then, in 2017, Islamic State fighters planned to attack the UK and US embassies in Nigeria.
The attack which targeted the Russian Embassy in Kabul was widely praised throughout the ISKP media and communications sphere, including in issue 9 of Khurasan Ghag magazine. The group drew a parallel between the Kabul International Airport attack which killed thirteen US military personnel plus many others and the two Russian employees who died in Kabul, stating both are key victories against the “Crusaders”.
Last week, ISKP’s mouthpiece in the region, Al-Azaim Foundation, published a post threatening more attacks against embassies in Afghanistan, specifically those of China, India, and Iran, labeling the Taliban’s state as the “Emirate of Embassies”. Thus, given the value they place on diplomatic missions and their record of following through on threats, it is quite likely that ISKP will again plot against such targets in the region.