Islamic State - Khorasan Province claims responsibility for Afghanistan blasts

Taliban and the Islamic State have engaged in clashes over the control of territory, mostly in eastern Afghanistan, but clashes have also occurred between the Taliban and the Islamic State's cells which are located in the north-west and south-west

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Friday, April 29, 2022, 05:08 PM IST
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A wounded man receives treatment in a hospital, after a bombing in Mazar-e-Sharif, northern Afghanistan, Thursday, April 28, 2022 | AP

The Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan claimed responsibility on Friday for two bombings in the country’s north that targeted the country’s minority Hazara ethnic group a day earlier.

The car bombings Thursday in Mazar-e-Sharif killed at least nine people and wounded 13 others, according to local Taliban officials. The Hazaras are mostly Shiite Muslims, who IS consider heretics. An IS statement said 30 Shiites were killed or wounded in the two attacks.

Afghanistan’s minority Shiite Muslims are reviled by Sunni radicals like IS, and have been targeted in a series of bombings in the past week. The IS affiliate known as IS in Khorasan Province, or IS-K, has attacked mosques, public buses, and schools.

The worst such bombing occurred last week, also in Mazar-e-Sharif, when a powerful bomb killed 33 worshippers as they knelt in prayer, as well as students of an adjacent religious school.

Images posted on social media showed one minibus engulfed in fire, while the other was mangled, with Taliban fighters seen transporting victims from the vehicle to hospitals.

The blasts came one week after an attack on a Shiite mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif killed at least 12 worshippers and wounded scores more.

That explosion was followed a day later by the bombing of another mosque in Kunduz targeting the minority Sufi community.

It killed at least 36 people during Friday prayers.

In Kabul, another attack also targeted Shiites, with two bombs detonated at a school, killing six students.

While criticism of the Taliban’s hardline edicts have drawn widespread criticism, most international observers have noted increased security throughout the country since their sweep to power last August.

But the deadly IS-K is proving to be one of the Taliban’s greatest challenges. Despite Taliban raids on IS-K strongholds in eastern Afghanistan, attacks continue at a steady pace.

The regional branch of IS in Sunni-majority Afghanistan has repeatedly targeted Shiites and minorities such as Sufis, who follow a mystical branch of Islam.

IS is a Sunni Islamist group, like the Taliban, but the two are bitter rivals.

The biggest ideological difference is that the Taliban pursued an Afghanistan free of foreign forces, whereas IS wants an Islamic caliphate stretching from Turkey to Pakistan and beyond.

Taliban officials insist their forces have defeated IS, but analysts say the jihadist group remains a key security challenge.

Afghan government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP earlier Thursday that several arrests had been made in connection with the string of recent attacks.

"These attacks targeted places that did not have enough security like mosques and a school, but now we have stepped up security in such places," he said.

The conflict escalated when militants who were affiliated with the Islamic State killed Abdul Ghani, a senior Taliban commander in Logar province on 2 February 2015.

Since then, Taliban and the Islamic State have engaged in clashes over the control of territory, mostly in eastern Afghanistan, but clashes have also occurred between the Taliban and the Islamic State's cells which are located in the north-west and south-west.

The Haqqani network, Al-Qaeda and others support the Taliban, while IS is supported by the High Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Mullah Dadullah Front and the pro-ISIS faction of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

After the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban in 2021, several members of the Afghan intelligence agency and the Afghan national army have also joined the Islamic State – Khorasan Province.

In February 2022, Pakistani officials acknowledged that ongoing violence was destabilizing the region.

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