Excuse me, Afghanistan tells China after busting its spy cell in Kabul
Afghanistan has destroyed a 10-member Chinese module that operated a terror cell in the capital city of Kabul, according to diplomats and security officials from the West Asian country. The crackdown has been a great embarrassment to Beijing, which has been trying to persuade the Ashraf Ghani government to silence the case, people familiar with the matter in Kabul and New Delhi said.
The 10 Chinese nationals, recently detained in this regard by Afghanistan’s National Security Directorate (NDS) on charges of espionage and running a terrorist cell, are believed to be linked to China’s spy agency, the Ministry of State Security. . The NDS crackdown began on December 10.
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This is the first time in years that Chinese citizens have been caught spying on Afghanistan, where the country was seeking to rapidly expand its influence even as the United States withdraws its troops. At least two of the 10 Chinese nationals were in contact with the Haqqani Network, the terrorist group that doubles as the Taliban’s sword-arm, a senior diplomat in Kabul said.
President Ashraf Ghani has been briefed on the arrests and has authorized First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, former head of the Afghan intelligence agency, to oversee the investigation and involve the Chinese in view of the sensitivities involved, the persons quoted in the first instance added. . .
Amrullah Saleh has held a meeting with the Chinese envoy to Kabul, Wang Yu, to inform him of the arrest. Saleh was reported to have indicated that the Afghan government could consider a pardon for Chinese spies if Beijing presents a formal apology admitting violation of international norms and a betrayal of Kabul’s trust.
Otherwise, Amrullah Saleh is believed to have told the Chinese ambassador that the Afghan government would go ahead with the criminal process. One of the detainees, Li Yangyang, according to a counterterrorism official in Kabul, has been operating for Chinese intelligence since July-August. He was arrested by the Afghan NDS on December 10 at his home in the Kart-e-Char neighborhood of western Kabul.
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The NDS team seized weapons, ammunition, and powdered ketamine, a recreational drug, from his residence when the first round of raids took place on December 10. NDS officials who have questioned Li reported that he had been collecting information on al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Uighurs in the Kunar and Badakhshan provinces, according to this counterterrorism official. A Chinese woman was the second person arrested. Sha Hung, who runs a restaurant in Shirpur, Kabul, was also arrested the same day.
“From their place, NDS recovered explosive material and other incriminating items,” said the counterterrorism official.
He added that Li and Sha have been in contact with the Haqqani Network.
Eight more Chinese citizens were subsequently arrested.
Investigators, a diplomat in New Delhi said, were still trying to determine the precise activities of the spy ring and any possible links to the deep state of Pakistan. One view within the Afghan security system is that the detainees were creating a fake East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) module in Afghanistan to catch ETIM operatives in Afghanistan.
ETIM is a small Islamic separatist group reportedly active in Xinjiang province, home to China’s Uighur Muslim ethnic minority. Its founder, Hasan Mahsum, a Uyghur from the Kashgar region of Xinjiang, was shot dead by Pakistani soldiers in 2003. Human rights groups say China uses the ETIM threat as an excuse to impose restrictions on Uyghurs and discredit activists rights outside of China. Last month, the United States revoked the terror label placed on ETIM, although the group continues to be designated by the UN Security Council.