The National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Afghanistan, has detained 10 Chinese citizens on charges of espionage and operating a terror cell in the capital city of Kabul. As per reports, these detainees are believed to be linked to China’s spy agency, Ministry of State Security. It was on December 10, 2020, that Afghanistan’s NDS started the crackdown.
According to reports, President Ashraf Ghani has been briefed about the detentions. He has authorised First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, a former chief of the Afghan intelligence agency, to oversee the investigation. Amrullah Saleh, in turn, has held a meeting with the Chinese envoy to Kabul Wang Yu to brief him about the detention.
‘Apologise or face criminal proceedings’, Afghanistan tells China after busting its espionage cell
Reports have it that the First Vice President has indicated that the Afghan government could consider a pardon for the Chinese spies if Beijing submits a formal apology that admits to the violation of international norms and a betrayal of Kabul’s trust. Otherwise, the Afghan government would go ahead with criminal proceedings against the 10 Chinese spies.
The crackdown by Afghanistan NDS
It is for the first time in years that Chinese nationals have been caught spying in Afghanistan. On December 10, Afghan NDS first arrested a Chinese intelligence operative Li Yangyang, who was operating in the country since July this year. Yangyang was arrested from his Kabul residence. The NDS also recovered arms, ammunition, and explosives, including Ketamine powder from his residence.
On the same day, the Afghan NDS then arrested another Chinese spy, Sha Hung from her Shirpur residence in Kabul. During the search operation, explosives and other highly objectionable material were recovered from Hung’s residence.
Subsequently, eight more Chinese spies were arrested by the NDS. All of the arrested individuals were operating as Chinese spies in Afghanistan.
Investigations revealed that both Li Yangyang and Sha Hung were kingpins of the espionage network and both of them had been meeting commanders of the Taliban-backed terror group Haqqani Network (HQN).
Pakistan’s ISI acting as a mediator between Haqqani Network and the Chinese Intelligence agents
It is believed that Pakistan’s ISI has been acting as a mediator between Haqqani Network and the Chinese Intelligence agents. According to experts, China is closely working with Pakistan’s ISI and terror outfits backed by them. Besides working with the HQN, China is also financing the Taliban through Pakistan to tackle the American influence.
Experts believe that these Chinese spies were meeting Talibani commanders to monitor the Uyghur activists who have fled to Afghanistan or to West Asia and were reporting the same to the Chinese government. Meanwhile, the Afghan security forces is of the belief that the detainees were creating a fake East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) module in Afghanistan to entrap ETIM operatives in Afghanistan.
ETIM is a Muslim separatist group alleged to be active in Xinjiang province, home to China’s ethnic minority Uyghur Muslims. Its founder Hasan Mahsum, an Uyghur from Xinjiang’s Kashgar region, was shot dead by Pakistani soldiers in 2003. Rights groups say China uses the ETIM threat as an excuse to impose restrictions on Uyghurs and discredit human rights activists outside China.