Travel agency in Kabul tweets to deny Taliban raid

Agency denies reports about Taliban militants getting hands on Afghan passports with Indian visas

New Delhi has over the past few days evacuated 112 Afghans, mostly Afghan Sikhs and Hindus

Credit: Reuters file photo

An agency hired by the Embassy of India in Kabul to issue visas to Afghans apparently opened a new account on Twitter on Saturday to deny reports about its office being raided by the militants of the Taliban.

The ‘denial’ from the Shahir Travel Agency came a day after the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi lent credence to the speculation that the militants of the Taliban might have got their hands on some of the passports issued by the Afghan Government affixed with the visas granted by the Embassy of India in Kabul.

The agency opened a new account, @ShahirIvac, on Twitter to issue the ‘denial’ on Saturday, instead of using its old, @Shahirtravels, which had been opened in June 2017, but had not been used to tweet after July 5, 2017.

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“We have come across false news in Indian media that Shahir Travel Office in Kabul was raided and property stolen. I would like to state that this news is not true and totally fake. We have only been provided security by personnel in charge, all property are SECURE,” the Shahir Travel Agency posted on Twitter, using the account @ShahirIvac.

It also stated that its office remained open and was functioning. “We look forward to begin accepting visa applications on behalf of Indian Embassy as soon as the Diplomatic Mission recommences operations again in Afghanistan”.

“Dear Sirs, Kindly note that Shahir India Visa Centre was not 'raided' but VISITED by officials currently in power as all offices in Kabul were. All our property is safe and functional. We look forward to working with GoI (Government of India) again soon.”

The circumstances in which the Shahir Travel Agency had to issue the denial are, however, not clear.

After the militants entered Kabul on August 15 and President Ashraf Ghani’s government collapsed, some “groups of people” had purportedly raided the office of the Shahir Travel Agency, which the Embassy of India in the capital of Afghanistan had hired to process visa applications by the Afghans and issue them visas after its approval.

“Once the security situation deteriorated immediately after August 15, there were reports of groups of people, who had access to or who raided one of our outsourcing agencies, where the Afghan passports with Indian visas were there,” Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said in New Delhi on Friday.

The incident put New Delhi on alert and immigration officials at the international airports in India were asked to remain vigilant to make it sure that no unwanted person could enter the country using the Indian visas affixed on Afghan passports lost in Kabul.

Bagchi was responding to a query on deportation of Rangina Kargar, a member of Parliament of Afghanistan, soon after her arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi from Istanbul on August 20. She came to New Delhi to consult a physician in the national capital of India and had a ticket for returning to Istanbul on August 22. But the immigration officials deported her from the airport itself and she was sent back to Istanbul via Dubai.

“So in the light of the loss of Afghan passports containing Indian visas. Our authorities were in a state of high alert. We were also moving to the e-emergency visa system,” said the MEA spokesperson. “It appears that all these could have led to some confusion which in turn led to the unfortunate incident of the denial of entry to a particular Afghan national.”

New Delhi, however, over the past few days evacuated 112 Afghans, mostly Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, including Narender Singh Khalsa and Anarkali Kour Honaryar, two members of the National Assembly of Afghanistan.

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