Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) recently arrested 10 Chinese citizens on charges of espionage and running a terror cell. They are believed to be linked to China’s Ministry of State Security. The crackdown by the NDS started on 10 December. This is the first time in years that Chinese nationals have been caught spying in Afghanistan. At least two of the 10 Chinese nationals, Li Yangyang and Ms Sha Hung, were in contact with the Haqqani Network, the terrorist group that doubles as the sword arm of the Taliban. The report said President Ashraf Ghani on being briefed about the detentions authorised First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, a former chief of the Afghan intelligence agency, to oversee the investigation and engage the Chinese in view of the sensitivities involved. Amrullah Saleh briefed the Chinese envoy to Kabul, Wang Yu and 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. The report aid that arms, ammunition, recreational drugs and explosives were recovered from their houses. According to Afghan counter-terror officials Li Yangyang was gathering information about al Qaeda, Taliban and Uyghurs in Kunar and Badakhshan provinces and Sha Hung runs a restaurant in Kabul’s Shirpur. The Afghan authorities were still trying to establish whether these Chinese agents had links to Pakistan’s deep state or were creating a fake East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) module in Afghanistan to entrap ETIM operatives.

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