Hong Kong travel expert reflects on Afghanistan’s dangers after three Spaniards killed in attack

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Picture credit: James Hong/Facebook.

21st May 2024 – (Hong Kong) Last Friday, three Spanish tourists tragically lost their lives in a targeted shooting in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province, casting a shadow over the region known for its historical and cultural significance. The attack, which also claimed the lives of three Afghan citizens, is one of the gravest targeting tourists since the Taliban’s assumption of power in 2021.

The province of Bamiyan, a site that holds the scars of the Taliban’s former regime with the remnants of the once-majestic Buddha statues, has recently begun to see a trickle of tourists, driven by an apparent improvement in security conditions under the Taliban’s new rule. However, this incident starkly highlights the precarious nature of peace in the region.

The day before the attack, Hong Kong travel expert James Hong was touring the site with a group. Reflecting on the close call, Hongg expressed his profound relief at having left just a day before the violence erupted. “It was incredibly fortunate. Perhaps it was divine intervention,” he noted, still visibly shaken by the near miss.

Despite the violence, Hong remains positive about Afghanistan, comparing its untouched cultural landscape to mainland China in the 1970s. He praised the local’s hospitality and the genuine interactions he experienced, a stark contrast to his harrowing brush with death.

The Taliban, in their quest to reshape their image and encourage tourism, have taken measures to assure visitors of their safety. This includes cultural engagements and promises of security from government officials to foreign visitors like Hong, showcasing a friendlier facade.

However, the reality on the ground tells a different story. Tourists are closely monitored, and movement is restricted. The presence of armed guards and frequent security checks underscore the tension that still exists despite the Taliban’s efforts to convey stability and control.

The recent attack was claimed by ISIS through a statement on their Telegram channel, underscoring the ongoing conflict between the Taliban and ISIS, which continues to destabilise the region. This incident follows a pattern of attacks targeting foreigners, including a 2022 assault that injured Chinese nationals in Kabul.