Terming situation in Afghanistan “complex and grave” following deadly suicide attacks outside Kabul airport, China on Friday offered to work with the international community to deal with the terrorist threats.
“China is shocked at and strongly condemns the explosions near Kabul airport which caused heavy casualties. The explosions show that the security situation in Afghanistan remains complex and grave,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.
He said that the Chinese Embassy in Kabul, which was still operating, verified and found that there were no Chinese casualties in the suicide attacks.
Two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of Afghans flocking to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, killing more than 100 people, including 13 US troops. Islamic State's Afghanistan affiliate, dubbed as Islamic State Khorasan or ISIS-K, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Observers say the Kabul blasts showed that ISIS-K could operate with impunity in Kabul under the Taliban control, which will be a disquieting factor for Beijing as it is banking on the Afghan militant group to rein on the Uygur Muslim militant group, the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), from Xinjiang.
Hundreds of ETIM militants were earlier reported to have fought along with ISIS in Syria and reportedly regrouped in Afghanistan in the run-up to the Taliban offensive culminating in seizing power in Kabul this month.
Senior Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, when he visited China last month and met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, gave a commitment to not allow the ETIM militants to infiltrate into the volatile Xinjiang province.
Xinjiang shares borders with Afghanistan, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK), besides Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
Without directly naming Taliban, Zhao said, “we hope relevant parties will take effective measures to ensure a smooth transition of the situation in Afghanistan and ensure the safety of the Afghan people and foreign citizens in the country."
China, along with Russia and Pakistan, has kept its embassy open in Kabul though it evacuated over 200 of its nationals earlier.
Asked whether China will work with the US and the western countries to crackdown on terrorist groups in Afghanistan and how confident is Beijing about the Taliban's ability to fight ISIS-K, he said “China firmly opposes and strongly condemns all forms of terrorism, and stands ready to work with the international community to jointly tackle the threat of terrorism and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a source of terrorism again.”
He said the militant groups were regrouping in Afghanistan for sometime.
“We noticed that some terrorist groups have gathered and developed in Afghanistan over the past two decades, posing a serious threat to international and regional peace and security,” he said and specially named the ETIM.
“In particular, as an international terrorist organisation listed by the UN Security Council, the ETIM poses an immediate threat to the security of China and its people,” he said and reminded Taliban to rein on the Uygur militants.
“The head of the Afghan Taliban made it clear to the Chinese side that the Afghan Taliban will never allow any force to use the Afghan territory to engage in acts that hurt China. The Afghan Taliban should earnestly honour its commitment, make a clean break with all terrorist organisations, resolutely fight against the ETIM and clear the way for regional security, stability, development and cooperation,” he said.
He also criticised the US' move to delist the ETIM as a terrorist organisation, saying Washington is following double standards in fighting terrorism.
The former Trump administration had removed ETIM from the US' list of terrorist organisations in 2020 amid allegations of human rights violations against Uygur Muslims by China in Xinjiang.
The US has termed China's security crackdown in Xinjiang as genocide against Uygur Muslims.
“China opposes the double standard of the US. The US should not claim to fight and oppose terrorism on the one hand and refuse to designate the ETIM on the other hand. Such US moves does no good to the counter-terrorism cooperation between China and the US,” he said. (With PTI inputs)