Afghanistan: Taliban ambush foreign tourists

Kabul. Taliban militants attacked a group of 12 American and European tourists escorted by an Afghan army convoy in western Herat province on Thursday, leaving at least seven people wounded as the insurgents stepped up nation-wide attacks.

The tourists — eight British, three Americans and one German national — were ambushed by Taliban gunmen in the restive district of Chesht-e-Sharif, while en route from the neighbouring provinces of Bamiyan and Ghor.

It is unclear why they were travelling overland at a time when Western embassies typically warn their citizens against all travel in Afghanistan, citing threats of kidnapping and attacks.

“The foreign tourists — three Americans, six Britons, two Scots and one German — were travelling with an Afghan Army convoy when they were ambushed by the Taliban in Chesht-e-Sharif,” said Jilani Farhad, the spokesman for Herat’s governor.

He said the insurgents had been repelled and the foreigners were being escorted to Herat city, adding that at least six foreigners and their Afghan driver were left wounded.

The attack comes as Taliban militants intensify their annual summer offensive after a brief lull during the month of Ramzan, which ended in early July.

Highways in Afghanistan passing through insurgency-prone areas have become exceedingly dangerous, with the Taliban and other armed groups frequently kidnapping or killing travellers.

But that has not stopped some tourists, including foreigners, from travelling to provinces such as Bamiyan, endowed with stunning landscapes but wedged between volatile provinces prone to the Taliban insurgency.

Bamiyan, famous for empty hillside niches that once sheltered giant Buddha statues that were blown up by the Taliban, is at the centre of Afghan efforts to boost tourism revenue.

The United States has warned its citizens in Afghanistan of a “very high” kidnapping risk after an American citizen narrowly escaped abduction in the heart of Kabul.

The latest attack follows a Taliban truck bombing on Monday at a hotel for foreigners in Kabul, which triggered a seven-hour gun and grenade assault.

The guests and staff of the Northgate hotel escaped unharmed, but one policeman was killed after the suicide truck bomber paved the way for two other armed insurgents to enter the heavily guarded facility near Kabul airport.

The attack was a grim reminder of growing insecurity in Afghanistan since most foreign troops withdrew in 2014. The rising violence has resulted in large Afghan civilian casualties.

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