Mosque bombing kills 33 Afghans after weeks of renewed violence

A Taliban official said a bomb attack on a mosque and a religious school in northern Afghanistan killed at least 33 people on Friday, including students at the school.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s deputy culture and information minister, said the bombing in the town of Imam Saheb, Kunduz province, also injured 43 other people, including many students.

No one immediately claimed responsibility, but the Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate on Friday claimed responsibility for a series of bombings that had taken place a day earlier, the worst of which was an attack on a Shia mosque in northern Mazar-e-Sharif who killed at least 12 Shia Muslim worshippers. and the wounded count more.

Since coming to power last August, the Taliban have been battling Islamic State’s upstart affiliate known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, or IS-K, which is proving a challenge intractable security for the Afghan religious government.

An injured man lies in a hospital bed in Kunduz province on Friday. The bombing was the latest in a series of deadly attacks across Afghanistan. (Abdallah Sahil/Associated Press)

Earlier, a Kunduz Provincial Police spokesman reported two dead and six injured at Malawi’s Bashir Ahmad Mosque and Madrassa compound in Imam Saheb. Mujahid then tweeted the higher number of victims, saying, “We condemn this crime…and express our deepest condolences to the victims.

Friday’s bombing is the latest in a series of deadly attacks across Afghanistan. Mujahid called the perpetrators of the Kunduz attack “seditionists and evil elements”.

A United Nations official called the attack “horrific”. Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan Ramiz Alakbarov said in a tweet that “the killings must stop now and the perpetrators brought to justice.”

The IS-K multiplies the attacks

Last October, IS-K claimed responsibility for a brutal bombing at a Shia mosque also in northern Kunduz province that killed at least 50 people and injured more than 100. the province of Nangarhar, where the headquarters of the murderous branch is located.

In a statement on Friday, IS-K said the explosive device that devastated the Sai Doken mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif on Thursday was hidden in a bag left inside among dozens of worshippers. As they knelt in prayer, he exploded.

“When the mosque was filled with prayers, the explosives detonated from a distance,” the statement said, saying 100 people were injured.

The Taliban say they arrested a former IS-K leader in the northern province of Balkh, of which Mazar-e-Sharif is the capital. Zabihullah Noorani, head of Balkh province’s information and culture department, said Abdul Hamid Sangaryar was arrested in connection with Thursday’s mosque attack.

IS-K had been relatively inactive in Afghanistan since last November, but in recent weeks it has intensified its attacks in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, targeting Shia Muslim communities vilified by Sunni radicals.

Earlier this month, two bombs exploded in the Shia neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi in Kabul, killing at least seven students and injuring several others.

IS-K established its headquarters in eastern Afghanistan in 2014 and has been blamed for some of the worst attacks in Afghanistan, including a brutal attack on a maternity hospital and school that killed more than 80 girls in 2021, months before the Taliban. took power.

IS-K also took responsibility for a brutal bombing outside Kabul International Airport in August 2021 that killed more than 160 Afghans who had pushed to enter the airport to flee the country. Thirteen American servicemen were also killed while overseeing America’s final withdrawal and the end of its 20-year war in Afghanistan.

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In Pakistan, an IS-K attack on a Shia mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar in March killed more than 65 worshippers. The upstart affiliate also claimed several deadly attacks on the Pakistani military.

In the city of Faisalabad in central Punjab, Pakistan, local police issued a threat warning on Thursday, saying “it has been learned that IS-K has planned to carry out terrorist activities in Faisalabad” , advising people to “exercise extreme vigilance”. The police warning did not give details.

In separate incidents, five children were also killed Friday in Faryab province in northern Afghanistan while playing with unexploded ordnance. In one incident, three brothers died when they found an unexploded device and attempted to dismantle it. In a second incident in another village, two children, aged seven and eight, were killed while playing with a device, said Shamsullah Mohammadi, provincial information and culture officer in Faryab.

After more than four decades of war that included two invasions – one by the former Soviet Union and one by the US-led coalition – Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world and is littered with unexploded ordnance.