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Afghanistan: IS claims deadly suicide attack on Shia mosque in Afghanistan’s Kandahar

Carnage in Kandahar

Sunday 17 October 2021, by siawi3


IS claims deadly suicide attack on Shia mosque in Afghanistan’s Kandahar


Published October 16, 2021 - Updated a day ago

Afghan men inspect the damage inside a Shia mosque in Kandahar, after a suicide bomb attack during Friday prayers that killed at least 33 people and injured 74 others. — AFP
Afghan men sit in a courtyard inside a Shia mosque in Kandahar, after a suicide bomb attack during Friday prayers. — AFP

The militant Islamic State group on Saturday claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on a Shia mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar that killed at least 41 people and injured scores more.

The Friday assault came just a week after another IS-claimed attack on Shia worshippers at a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz that killed more than 60 people.

In a statement released on its Telegram channels, the group said two Islamic State suicide bombers carried out separate attacks on different parts of the mosque in Kandahar — the spiritual heartland of the Taliban — while worshippers prayed inside.

The group, a bitter rival of the Taliban, which swept back to power in Afghanistan in August as the United States and its allies withdrew, regards Shia Muslims as heretics.

UK-based conflict analysis firm ExTrac said Friday’s assault was the first by IS in Kandahar, and the fourth mass casualty massacre since the Taliban took Kabul.

ExTrac researcher Abdul Sayed told AFP the attack was “challenging the Taliban claims of holding control on the country. If the Taliban can’t protect Kandahar from an IS attack, how could it protect the rest of the country?”

Also read: Editorial: In IS-K, the Afghan Taliban have a new challenger

Inside the mosque, after the blast, the walls were pockmarked with shrapnel and volunteers swept up debris in the ornately painted prayer hall. Rubble lay in an entrance corridor.

In the wake of the explosions, Kandahar police chief Maulvi Mehmood said “a brutal attack has been witnessed on a Shia mosque as a result of which a huge number of our countrymen have lost their lives”.

In a video statement, Mehmood said security for the mosque had been provided by guards from the Shia community but that henceforth the Taliban would take charge of its protection.

Hafiz Abdulhai Abbas, director of health for Kandahar, told AFP 41 people had been killed about 70 wounded, according to hospital information.

At least 15 ambulances were seen rushing to and from the scene, as Taliban security cordoned off the area.

“We are overwhelmed,” a doctor at the city’s central Mirwais hospital told AFP.

“There are too many dead bodies and wounded people brought to our hospital. We are expecting more to come. We are in urgent need of blood. We have asked all the local media in Kandahar to ask people to come and donate blood.”
Many worshippers

Eyewitnesses spoke of gunfire alongside the explosions, and a security guard assigned to protect the mosque said three of his comrades had been shot as the bombers fought their way in.

Sayed Rohullah told AFP: “It was the Friday prayer time, and when we were preparing I heard shots. Two people had entered the mosque.

“They had opened fire on the guards and in response the guards had also opened fire on them. One of them committed a suicide blast inside the mosque.”

Other bombs were detonated in crowded areas outside the main building, he and other witnesses said.

“We are saddened to learn that an explosion took place in a mosque of the Shia brotherhood in the first district of Kandahar city in which a number of our compatriots were martyred and wounded,” tweeted Taliban interior ministry spokesman Qari Sayed Khosti.

The US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington condemned the attack and reiterated a call for the “Taliban to live up to the commitment it has made to counterterrorism, and specifically to taking on the shared threat we face from ISIS-K”.

“We are determined to see to it that no group [...] can ever again use Afghan soil as a launching pad for attacks on the United States or other countries.”

The UN mission in Afghanistan in a tweet also condemned the “latest atrocity targeting a religious institution and worshippers”.

“Those responsible need to be held to account.”

The Taliban, which seized control of Afghanistan after overthrowing the US-backed government, has its own history of persecuting Shia.

But the new Taliban-led administration has vowed to stabilise the country, and in the wake of the Kunduz attack promised to protect the Shia minority now living under its rule.

Shia are estimated to make up roughly 10 per cent of the Afghan population. Many of them are Hazara, an ethnic group that has been persecuted in Afghanistan for decades.

In October 2017, an IS suicide attacker struck a Shia mosque in the west of Kabul, killing 56 people and wounding 55.



Carnage in Kandahar


Published October 17, 2021 - Updated about 13 hours ago

FOR the second time in a week, carnage has been visited upon Shia worshippers during Friday prayers in Afghanistan. Over 40 people were killed and scores more injured after a group of suicide bombers detonated their explosive vests in an attack on the minority community’s largest mosque in the southern city. Exactly a week ago, 55 people were killed in a suicide bombing on a Shia mosque in Kunduz city in the north of the country.

The militant Islamic State’s Khorasan chapter claimed responsibility in both cases, marking a significant escalation of its sectarian agenda in war-torn Afghanistan while overall — counting the Kabul airport bombing on Aug 26 — it was the terrorist outfit’s third attack within two months.

This bloody timeline indicates a marked deterioration in the war-torn country’s security situation since the US withdrawal and the world’s subsequent wait-and-see approach towards the Afghan Taliban regime. An uptick in violence was on the cards with the Taliban unable and unwilling to rein in jihadi groups for logistical, ideological and political reasons, despite IS-K being their sworn enemy, and notwithstanding their pledges to the world earlier. Nevertheless, it is significant that the latest attack occurred in Kandahar, which is a Taliban stronghold and its spiritual heartland.

Earlier reports have held that some Afghan Taliban, those who see the group as insufficiently fundamentalist, have defected to the IS. The 28th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, prepared for the UN Security Council and released in June, also apprehended an increased likelihood of foreign militants relocating to Afghanistan following the US troops’ drawdown. It also stated that IS-K, having suffered territorial, leadership, manpower and financial losses in 2020 at the hands of US and Afghan security forces in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces, has formed sleeper cells in other provinces. The situation now is more conducive to its operations, a large chunk of which is rooted in its virulently anti-Shia ideology.

How does the situation translate in the context of Pakistan? This country was blighted by years of sectarian violence; there were targeted killings, suicide bombings at shrines, on religious processions and gatherings, even at hospital emergency rooms where the wounded had been taken. The Shia Hazaras settled in Quetta in particular have seen horrific, mass casualty terrorist attacks. What is happening in Afghanistan now will breathe new life into sectarian outfits on this side of the border. But Pakistan’s anti-extremism policy is in many ways half-baked and inconsistent — consider that some individuals affiliated with takfiri groups were allowed to contest the 2018 general elections — and the results are predictable. In January this year, 11 Shia Hazara coal miners were slaughtered in Balochistan’s Bolan district by Islamic State militants. Then in June, an Ashura procession in Lahore was bombed, killing two and injuring 59.
The situation next door could reignite the flames of simmering extremism in Pakistan.