An explosion at an Afghan mosque has killed dozens of people as Shiites have been targeted again

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – A bomb blast during Friday prayers at a mosque in southern Afghanistan has killed dozens of people and injured dozens more, officials say, a second such attack on a Shia shrine in the country on Friday.

Witnesses said multiple blasts were involved, taking place in the city of Kandahar যা which is considered the heart of the re-established Taliban government. And although no group has yet claimed responsibility, Islamic State says it was behind a similar attack last week on a Shia mosque in the northern province of Kunduz, which killed more than 0 people.

Hafiz Saidullah, a Taliban official in charge of Kandahar’s culture and information department, said 47 people had been killed and at least one killed in the latest attack. John is injured.

Eyewitnesses described the bloody scene in the mosque after multiple explosions took place inside the building.

“We don’t know if it was a suicide bomber or an IED – but it was powerful; Human flesh and blood were seen around the mosque, ”said Mohammad Ali, a worshiper, referring to an advanced explosive device.

Mr. Ali said the Taliban surrounded the area shortly after the blast. Outside the Mirwais Regional Hospital, where the victims were taken, people lined up to donate blood.

Such an attack on a Taliban stronghold risks undermining the Taliban government’s commitment to providing security for Afghan citizens after the fall of the Western-backed government in August.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep that promise, as Taliban fighters are now responsible for securing major urban centers such as Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city, and the capital, Kabul. And it is unclear whether the Taliban will make a commitment to the security of Afghanistan’s Shia minority, whom the Sunni militant movement considers apostate.

“People are very worried,” said Abdul Waheed Pazwak, whose shop is hundreds of feet away from the targeted mosque. This is the first time they have gone inside a mosque in Kandahar. What should we do while chatting, should we migrate? Should we stay or leave? “

Taliban spokesman Jabihullah Mujahid condemned the attack on Twitter on Friday. Expressing sympathy to the families of the victims, he said the government was instructing the security forces to arrest the perpetrators of such incidents immediately and bring them under Sharia law.

The Islamic State of Khorasan, also known as ISIS, is a Sunni extremist group that has long been present in the east of Afghanistan but rarely attacks in the south. The terrorist group has targeted the country’s Shia Muslims, focusing mainly on the Hazara ethnic minority, which is predominantly Shia. Most of Afghanistan is Sunni, and ethnic Pashtuns – who hold the majority of Taliban positions – are in the majority.

The Shia mosque, which was attacked on Friday, is a place of worship for Afghans of multiple ethnic groups, including Hazaras.

ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at Kabul International Airport on August 26, which killed at least 1,170 civilians and 13 US troops. It also carried out an attack outside a mosque in Kabul earlier this month, in which a Taliban spokesman, Mr. Mujahid’s mother killed several people during the commemoration.

If the Islamic State does indeed strike on Friday, it will be a significant demonstration of its newly established reach as it launches a renewed campaign of violence against the people of Afghanistan and, in some cases, against the new Taliban government.

ISIS has carried out guerrilla-style attacks and bombings across the country in recent weeks. Prior to Afghanistan, where the Islamic State maintained a presence even after the United States, Afghan government forces and Taliban fighters almost wiped out in 2019 in a coordinated operation, the terrorist group has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks targeting the group’s military unit.

The new government’s ability to protect ISIS from the threat is one of the conditions for international recognition and the provision of significant assistance that could prevent Afghanistan’s economy from collapsing.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told the Associated Press last week that the new government could pose a threat to Islamic State and other terrorist groups and would not accept US assistance. The spokesman’s remarks came ahead of talks between U.S. officials and Taliban representatives last weekend in Doha, Qatar, the first meeting since U.S. forces withdrew in August.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that the Taliban must show commitment not to use Afghan soil by ISIS or any other terrorist group that threatens the security of the United States or its allies, and not innocent Afghans. Statement to the Times.

“Defeating ISIS is in our common interest and we will continue to look for ways to work with the Taliban in this effort,” the statement added.

For the Shia minority and the country’s many thousands, the return of the rebel group to power and the resurgence of the Islamic State have ushered in another era of uncertainty and fear.

Earlier this month, Amnesty International said the Taliban had illegally killed 1,000 people, including a 17-year-old girl, raising fears for ethnic and religious minorities that the Taliban were also evicting Hazaras from their homes. The Taliban has challenged these reports in the media.

During the Taliban’s first reign in the 1980s, Hazara was targeted and thousands were killed, just to keep it afloat and metastasized after the US invasion in 2001 and the rise of ISIS in 2015. In recent years in Afghanistan, as its security forces have done very little to protect them from frequent attacks.

Taimur Shah Reported from Kandahar, and Thomas Gibbons-Nef From Kabul. Lara Jakes Report contributions from Washington, and Wali Aryan from Istanbul.

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