1998 murder of Iranian diplomats in Afghanistan

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1998 murder of Iranian diplomats in Afghanistan
Location Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan
Date August 8, 1998 (UTC+4:30)
Target Iranian diplomats
Attack type
Mass murder, massacre, hostage-taking, siege
Deaths 11
Perpetrators Taliban

The 1998 Iranian murder of diplomats in Afghanistan refers to the siege of the Iranian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan during the capture of Mazar-i-Sharif by Taliban forces on August 8, 1998. Initially the death of 8 Iranian diplomats was reported, but later two other diplomats and a journalist were also confirmed dead. The killings of the diplomats had however been carried out by Sipah-e-Sahaba, a Pakistani Sunni group with close ties to the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence.[1][2]


Before this incident, Iran was supportive of the "rebel alliance", and the city of Mazari Sharif was one of the headquarters of the alliance. After the capture of the city, hundreds of Hazara, Tajiks, and Uzbeks were killed. UN Human Rights reports indicate that after the fall of the city, "Taliban forces carried out a systematic search for male members of the ethnic Hazara, Tajik, and Uzbek communities in the city. The Hazaras, a Persian-speaking Shi’a ethnic group, were particularly targeted, in part because of their religious identity. During the house-to-house searches, scores and perhaps hundreds of Hazara men and boys were summarily executed, apparently to ensure that they would be unable to mount any resistance to the Taliban."[3]

The events[edit]

On August 8, 1998 Taliban forces captured Mazar-i-Sharif, a city in northern Afghanistan. After this incident, 11 Iranian diplomats and a correspondent from Iran's state news agency (IRNA) were attacked at the Iranian consulate and subsequently disappeared. Unofficial reports from the city indicated that all these men were killed. Later it was confirmed that 8 of the Iranian diplomats and the IRNA correspondent were killed by the Taliban militia attacking the consulate. The Taliban spokesmen said the Iranians had been killed by renegade forces who had acted without orders.[4] It was also reported that some of the personnel of the consulate were taken hostage by the invaders, but they were later released.


This incident caused a public furor in Iran and many observers were worried Iran would be involved in a military response to the attack. At the time, more than 70,000 Iranian troops were deployed along the Afghan border.[5][6] Mediation by the United Nations defused the situation and all the hostages were eventually released. Later in February 1999, Iran and Taliban held talks, but Iranian-Taliban relations did not improve.[7]

August 8 is named Reporters' Day in Iran, in memory of Mahmoud Saremi, the IRNA correspondent killed in this attack.

Proposed street name in Afghanistan[edit]

In 2012, a controversy erupted in Afghanistan over the proposed naming of a street in Balk province of Afghanistan in memory of the slain Iranian diplomats.[8] This Iranian proposition angers "many Afghans who view the Iranian diplomats as spies who had tried to divide Afghanistan along sectarian lines in order to create a Shi'ite-dominated buffer state on Iran's eastern border.[9] One member of the Afghan parliament stated, "the people who were killed there may have been spies, but now they name the roads in their honor... if you see how Afghans in Iran are not allowed to attend Friday Prayers, how they don't have permission to attend the religious schools, or how Iran executes innocent Afghans, it is shameful for us to rename our streets in honor of their spies." Others such as Balkh governor Atta Muhammad Nur defends the naming of the street.[10] Afghan analyst Razaq Mamoon said that a majority of Afghans oppose the name change. "This is an extraordinary decision and it is not compatible with Afghanistan's laws... It will be opposed by a majority of the people. The reason is that the street named after Abu Muslim-i Khorasani [the current name of the street] is a central road of the city. Naming it to honor nine or 10 Iranian spies will be an insult to Abu Muslim-i Khorasani and Afghan culture."[9]


  1. ^ Riedel, Bruce (2010). The Search for Al Qaeda: Its Leadership, Ideology, and Future (2nd Revised ed.). Brookings Institution. pp. 66–67. ISBN 978-0-8157-0451-5. 
  2. ^ Gutman, Roy (2008). How We Missed the Story: Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban, and the Hijacking of Afghanistan. Institute of Peace Press. p. 142. ISBN 978-1-60127-024-5. 
  3. ^ "The massacre in Mazar-i Sharif". Human Rights Watch Organization. November 1998. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  4. ^ Jehl, Douglas (1998-09-11). "Iran Holds Taliban Responsible for 9 Diplomats' Deaths". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  5. ^ Jehl, Douglas (1998-09-12). "For Death of Its Diplomats, Iran Vows Blood for Blood". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  6. ^ Session 53 The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security S/1998/1109 page 2. 23 November 1998. Retrieved 2008-11-04.
  7. ^ "Taliban, Iran hold talks". CNN. 1999-02-03. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  8. ^ Senate blasts naming Balkh street after Iranians, by Abasin Zaheer. August 12, 2012. Pajhwok Afghan News.
  9. ^ a b In Afghanistan, Scandal Erupts Over Changing Street Name To Honor Iranians, By RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan. August 15, 2012 .
  10. ^ Noor defends naming Balkh street after Iranians, by Zabihullah Ihsas. September 29, 2012.