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Terrorism

Taliban attack on Spanish embassy in Kabul was no mistake: police report

Document says suicide bombing in December 2015 was facilitated by lack of security at site

The Taliban attack against the Spanish embassy in Kabul (Afghanistan) on December 11, 2015 was no mistake, as the Spanish government had previously claimed. A report filed with the judge investigating the case concludes that the lack of security was a determining factor in the attackers’ decision to target this particular facility. Two Spanish police officers and five Afghan counterparts died in the attack, as well as four assailants.

Afghan soldiers guard the Spanish embassy in Kabul after the 2015 assault.
Afghan soldiers guard the Spanish embassy in Kabul after the 2015 assault. Getty Images

The report was drafted by the information department of the Spanish National Police and sent to Judge Santiago Pedraz at the Audiencia Nacional, Spain’s central high court. The former ambassador to Kabul, Emilio Pérez de Ágreda, and his top aide at the time, Oriol Solá, are under investigation in the case.

“A determining factor that made the terrorists decide to attack the Spanish Embassy [in Kabul] was its inadequate location in an area devoid of an outer safety ring, as would have been the case if it had been located inside the Green Zone,” reads the report, which is dated March 30.

The report demolishes the Spanish government’s claim that the Taliban were really targeting a guesthouse for foreigners

But it was more than bad location that made the Spanish diplomatic mission particularly vulnerable. “The three buildings it comprises are directly exposed to aggressive action from […] the adjacent buildings,” adds an annex to the report.

Additionally, the metal door that was destroyed in the car bomb explosion “was malfunctioning and had to be manually pushed open and shut by the police officers.” The only security ring around the facilities was a three-meter-high wall, and once the suicide bombers got past that, “they found no obstacle in their way” into the buildings. The short distance between the wall and the buildings “made any reaction by security personnel impossible.”

The annex also states that the electrical network was destroyed by the explosion and could not be reactivated. The police officers were literally left in the dark, unaware of how many attackers they were facing or where they were located. A number of officers took cover in what passed for a safe room, although the report says that the room did not merit that name, as it lacked an emergency communication line with the outside world.

Officers were literally left in the dark when the bomb cut the embassy’s electricity

The report demolishes the Spanish government’s claim that the Taliban were really targeting a guesthouse for foreigners, and mistakenly attacked the Spanish embassy. Afghan Deputy Interior Minister General Ayoub Salangi told investigators: “The terrorists knew they were attacking the Spanish embassy” and that it was he himself who developed the false theory about the guesthouse “in order to protect the safety of the [diplomatic] mission.”

This has been ratified by the director general of Criminal Investigation at the Afghan Interior Ministry, who explained that following the terrorist attacks in Paris, in November 2015), his department received “information suggesting that the embassies in Kabul could be attacked.” However, he believed that the main targets would be the embassies of the United States, Britain or France, not Spain.

Somebody did, however, provide an early warning about the “risk of an imminent attack.” The diplomat Oriol Solá admits that he received an e-mail from the French defense attaché, but says he did not read it until after the attack because he was away from his office.

The Spanish embassy had received a similar warning in March 2015. The response was to shut down the facilities for 48 hours, evacuate all local personnel and cut off traffic on nearby streets. None of this was done on the day of the attack.

Judge Pedraz has contacted the French embassy in Madrid to request a copy of the attaché’s warning message to Spanish colleagues, in order to determine what was said and when it was sent.

English version by Susana Urra.

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