At least two Indian consulates in Afghanistan were raided by the Taliban on Wednesday. They searched for documents and stole parked cars, NDTV quoted government sources as saying, who also expressed worry that it meant the group is acting against the assurances its leaders have been giving to the world.
According to the sources, Taliban members “ransacked" the Indian consulates in Kandahar and Herat, which are now closed. In Kandahar, they “searched closets" for documents and seized vehicles parked at both consulates’ parking lots. However, India Today quoted sources as saying that the local staff of the embassy in Kabul has denied any such raid at the establishment in the Afghanistan capital.
“We expected this. They ransacked the place searched documents and also took away our parked vehicles from both embassies," NDTV quoted a senior office as saying.
Even as India’s efforts to evacuate its officials from turmoil-torn Kabul remained ongoing, reports say senior Taliban leader Sher Mohammed Abbas Stanekzai reached out to the country to retain its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan.
Earlier this week, the Taliban leader, who is part of the leadership of the group’s political office in Doha, Qatar, made the request informally, just before India evacuated 200 people in two military flights on Monday and Tuesday, including its ambassador, diplomats, security personnel, and citizens, the Hindustan Times said in a report.
Once they had seized control of Afghanistan’s capital, the Taliban began searching Kabul’s streets for members of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the government’s intelligence agency.
An Indian airforce plane had evacuated over 170 people from Kabul on Tuesday, including India’s ambassador to Afghanistan, as diplomats and civilians scrambled to get out of the country after the Taliban seized the capital.
The flight landed in the western Indian city of Jamnagar for refuelling on the way to Delhi, Jamnagar collector Sourabh Pardhi told Reuters.
Speaking to reporters, Ambassador Rudrendra Tandon said that nearly 200 personnel of the Indian mission in Afghanistan had been evacuated within three days, alongside Indian civilians working in the country.
“You cannot imagine how great it is to be back home," Tandon said. “We are back home safely, securely, without any accidents or harm to any of our people."
Tandon described the situation in Afghanistan as “fluid", adding that a small number of Indian nationals remained in the country who authorities were attempting to bring back.
Thousands of people desperate to flee Afghanistan thronged Kabul’s airport on Monday, after the Taliban fighters streamed into the capital unopposed, prompting the United States to pause evacuations.
India, which has invested millions of dollars in development projects across Afghanistan, once operated four consulates in the country, besides the embassy in Kabul.
The last operating consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif was shut down a week ago, days before Taliban insurgents took control of the northern city, where the Afghan army quickly surrendered.