KABUL, Afghanistan – On Friday, an Islamic State suicide bomber destroyed a Shiite mosque in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, killing dozens of believers in a deadly continuation of the terrorist group’s campaign against the Hazara minority.
The massacre, when the mosque was overcrowded during Friday prayers, was the group’s second attack on the mosque in just a few days. And this was the realization of the fears of the Afghan Hazaras that the predation of the Islamic State would go unnoticed under the rule of the Taliban, which in the past hunted the Hazaras themselves.
According to eyewitnesses, a powerful explosion occurred, resulting in many victims. Matullah Rohani, a Taliban spokesman in Kunduz, told local media that at least 43 people were killed in the attack and more than 140 were injured.
The leader of the local Shiite community killed many more. Sayed Ahmad Shah Hashemi, representing the Shiite population of Kunduz province, told The New York Times that more than 70 people were killed in the attack.
“This deadly incident has traumatized Shiites and other sectors of society,” said Mr. Hashemi.
A few hours after the explosion, he was declared Islamic State of Khorasan, also known as ISIS-K. It was the group’s deadliest strike since the August 26 suicide bombing at Kabul International Airport. killed about 170 civilians and 13 U.S. military personnel…
ISIS-K is a Sunni extremist group that has long persecuted Shia Muslims in Afghanistan, with a focus on the Hazara ethnic minority, which is predominantly Shia. Most of Afghanistan is Sunni, and ethnic Pashtuns, who make up the bulk of the Taliban, are numerous in the country.
Several days ago, ISIS-K also staged an attack near a mosque in Kabul, the country’s capital, which resulted in the deaths of several people.
In the months leading up to the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, 8,000 to 10,000 jihadist fighters from Central Asia, the North Caucasus region in Russia, Pakistan and the Xinjiang region in western China poured into Afghanistan. UN report said in June. Most of them were associated with the Taliban or al-Qaeda, which are closely associated, but others were associated with the Islamic State.
Claiming the attack in Kunduz on Friday, a statement from ISIS-K said the attacker was an ethnic Uighur, an oppressed Muslim minority in western China. China has long been concerned that Afghanistan could become a haven for Uyghur militants who might try to attack the interests of the Chinese government in retaliation for its abuse of the Muslim population in Xinjiang.
The new Taliban government, which toppled a Western-backed administration in the country in August, is struggling to contain the rise of the Islamic State. In recent weeks, the group has become increasingly hostile, carrying out guerrilla attacks and bombings that have killed Taliban fighters. The new government is also grappling with the economic collapse as foreign funding remains largely frozen.
As Taliban officials shift from guiding insurgents to building a functioning state, ensuring the safety of a population devastated by more than 40 years of war has become their focus. But Islamic State attacks undermined the Taliban’s promises.
Taliban chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid condemned Friday’s attack and promised revenge.
For Afghanistan’s Shiite minority, the new era of the Taliban has witnessed the continued predation and violence that has plagued them for decades.
In recent years, the Hazaras have become increasingly bitter towards the US-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani, accusing it of doing little to protect them from sectarian carnage. And they watched the return of the Taliban to power with fear: in the era of the civil war of the 1990s and the first Taliban government in Afghanistan, the group is targeting its attacks on Hazara Shiites.