ISKP Attack on Chinese Nationals in Kabul Unleashes Wave of Anti-Chinese Jihadist Propaganda

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 1

Kabul Hotel following the attack via South China Morning Post

On December 12, Islamic State (IS) militants assaulted Chinese nationals and Taliban officials inside a Kabul hotel. IS’s Amaq News Agency claimed the attack shortly afterwards and eventually released photos and a video of the attackers while claiming that IS in Khorasan Province (ISKP) fighters raided “a big hotel frequented by Chinese diplomats and businessmen” (Twitter/@abdsayedd, December 13). The attackers used guns, grenades, and explosives as seen in its visual propaganda, which IS said killed or wounded over 30 people (Twitter/@war_noir, December 12).

The hotel attack prompted a surge of anti-Chinese propaganda by both official and pro-IS sources in several different languages and across various social media and messaging platforms. In fact, the hotel raid spurred a uniquely high volume and diversity of propaganda production from IS and pro-IS media networks. Such a response indicates the attack represented something of a release valve for pent-up anti-China sentiment held by IS and its supporters in the Khorasan region and beyond.

Islamic State’s Official Coverage of the Attack

IS published an editorial about the hotel operation and Chinese oppression of Muslims in issue 369 of its official al-Naba newsletter on December 15 (Twitter/@LucasADWebber, December 15). It also included a section with photos of the attackers and the burning hotel alongside an explainer about the operation in a separate infographic, which detailed the casualties and damage inflicted during the assault (Twitter/@Natsecjeff, December 16). The article noted that the “issue of the Uyghurs Muslims is one that has received wide outcry over the last few years in Muslim and Islamist circles… [but] sadly these campaigns were no more than words and images” (Jihadology, December 15). In contrast to those who simply talk about China’s policies in Xinjiang, IS “sought fastidiously to put its threats towards China into action on the ground” by successfully striking a “Chinese hotel” and “initiating the journey of vengeance.” This language portends future ISKP attacks against Chinese interests and nationals.

IS further boasted that the hotel operation “spread terror and panic among the ranks of the communist Chinese” and chided the Taliban for “welcoming” and pursuing cordial relations with Beijing. The article added that IS “soldiers threatened China years ago from Syria, and today they put their threats into actions [sic] in Khorasan.” Notably, IS stated its threats against the “pagan Hindus” will likewise lead to militant action against Indian nationals, referring to attacks in Iran, against the Russian embassy in Kabul, and against Hindu temples to set IS apart from other jihadists who make nothing more than idle threats.

Amplifying the al-Naba Article

A wide range of pro-IS propagandists capitalized on the attack to amplify the narratives purveyed in the al-Naba editorial. One of the first was ISKP’s al-Azaim Foundation for Media Production, which published an image in Pashto and Persian showing the attackers and smoke bellowing out of the hotel alongside a description of what transpired during the attack. [1] This was then translated into Tajik by al-Azaim Tajiki as well as into other languages. [2]

The al-Naba editorial itself was translated from Arabic into various languages, including English by the Halummu group, Tajiki by ISKP’s al-Azaim Tajiki, and Pashto by al-Azaim. [3] Pro-IS propaganda group, al-Battar, further released an audio reading of the article accompanied by a promotional banner featuring an elderly Uyghur former member of IS in Syria and Iraq. Hadm Alaswar also released a four-image series recounting the editorial with photos of IS’s flag and the attackers in the background. Alaswar also released a similar image as well as a photo of the attackers with a quote about the importance of martyrdom by late Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the latter of which is also translated from Arabic into Bengali by At-Tamkeen Media. Another IS-aligned outlet posted an image showing Chinese leader Xi Jinping in flames with a caption saying “we do not forget the blood of a Muslim even if it is in China” (Twitter/@AfghanAnalyst2, December 14).

The messaging from IS supporters, however, persisted even days after the attack, with IS-aligned Aladiyat releasing an image with a quote from the al-Naba article and another group, at-Taqwa, posting an image showing the burning hotel and praising the act of “revenge”.  Another sympathetic group circulated an image calling the attack a “nightmare for the atheistic Chinese” claiming there were “30 killed or injured” (Twitter/@ToreRHamming, December 13). Meanwhile, Vanguards of the Ansar (Supporters), which supports IS, published an image showing Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi alongside the Taliban’s Abdul Ghani Baradar and Zabihullah Mujahed, and promised to strike Communists, apostates, and Crusaders. [4]


IS has long been critical of China, but ISKP has emerged as by far the most anti-Chinese IS province and, consequently, it ended up being the group that acted on its threats (Militant Wire, September 27, 2021). This hotel attack subsequently galvanized IS supporters and drew greater attention to China and its Xinjiang policies. This will likely lead the broader organization—including IS’s other provinces and the global movement of IS supporters at large—to place a greater focus on China in the future. As for ISKP, it will likely continue to spearhead IS’s anti-China propaganda efforts while also plotting and conducting further attacks targeting Chinese nationals and interests. This may be the case not only in Afghanistan, but also in Pakistan where ISKP kidnapped and executed two Chinese instructors in 2017 (Hindustan Times, October 30, 2017).


[1] ISKP posted the Pashto and Persian statements through al-Azaim to Telegram on December 13.

[2] ISKP’s al-Azaim Tajiki circulated the translation in its Telegram channels on December 14.

[3] Halummu’s English translation of the editorial was published in its Telegram channel on December 20.

[4] This was posted on an Element Messenger channel on December 15.