No one immediately claimed responsibility, but Afghanistan’s Afghan Islamic State branch on Friday claimed a series of bombings that happened the day before, the worst of which was an attack on a Shia mosque in northern Mazar-e-Sharif that killed at least 12 people. Shia Muslim worshipers perished. and injured score more.
Earlier, the spokesman for the Kunduz provincial police estimated the death toll at the mosque and madrassa complex in Imam Saheb at two dead and six injured. Mujahid later tweeted the higher number of victims by tweeting: “We condemn this crime. † † and extend our deepest condolences to the victims.”
Friday’s bombing is the latest in a series of deadly attacks across Afghanistan.
Since taking power last August, the Taliban has been battling the fledgling Islamic State known as Islamic State in Khorasan Province or IS-K, proving a persistent security challenge for Afghanistan’s religiously driven government. Last November, the Taliban intelligence unit carried out sweeping attacks on suspected IS-K hideouts in eastern Nangarhar province.
In a statement Friday, IS-K said the explosive device that destroyed Mazar-e-Sharif’s Sai Doken Mosque was hidden in a bag left inside among dozens of worshipers. When they knelt in prayer, it exploded.
“Once the mosque was filled with prayers, the explosives were detonated remotely,” the statement said, claiming 100 people were injured.
The Taliban say they have arrested a former IS-K leader in northern Balkh province, whose capital is Mazar-e-Sharif. Zabihullah Noorani, head of the information and culture department in Balkh province, said Abdul Hamid Sangaryar has been arrested in connection with Thursday’s mosque attack.
The IS-K had been relatively inactive in Afghanistan since November last year, but in recent weeks it has ramped up its attacks in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, targeting Shia Muslim communities taunted by Sunni radicals.
Earlier this month, two bombs exploded in the Shia Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood of Kabul, killing at least seven students and injuring several others.
The IS-K established its headquarters in eastern Afghanistan in 2014 and is responsible for some of the worst attacks in Afghanistan, including a brutal attack on a maternity hospital and a school that killed more than 80 girls in 2021, months before the Taliban . seized power.
The IS-K also took responsibility for a brutal bomb attack outside Kabul International Airport in August 2021, which killed more than 160 Afghans trying to enter the airport to flee the country. Thirteen US servicemen were also killed while overseeing America’s final withdrawal and the end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan.
In recent months, IS-K has also stepped up attacks in neighboring Pakistan, targeting a Shia mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar in March. More than 65 believers were killed. The upstart has also claimed several deadly attacks on the Pakistani military.
In Faisalabad, the central city in Pakistan’s Punjab, local police issued a threat warning on Thursday, saying: “It has been learned that IS-Khas planned to carry out terrorist activities in Faisalabad”, advising people to exercise “extreme vigilance.” to consider”. The police warning has not been further elaborated.
Meanwhile, a Pakistani soldier was killed late Thursday in southwestern Baluchistan province after militants raided a security post. No one claimed responsibility. The area has been targeted by both IS-K and the violent Pakistani Taliban militants known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also headquartered in neighboring Afghanistan.
According to the United Nations Educational Fund (UNICEF), the refuges of militant groups in Afghanistan have raised concerns for Pakistan, which launched airstrikes in Pakistan earlier this month that killed at least 20 children.
Pakistan has not confirmed the attacks but has warned the Afghan Taliban to prevent their territory from being used for attacks across the border into Pakistan.
In separate incidents, five children died on Friday in northern Afghanistan’s Faryab province while playing with unexploded ordnance. In one incident, three brothers died when they found an unexploded device and tried to dismantle it. In a second incident in another village, two children, aged 7 and 8, were killed while playing with a device, said Shamsullah Mohammadi, head of Faryab provincial information and culture.
After more than four decades of war, including two invasions – one by the former Soviet Union and one by the US-led coalition – Afghanistan is one of the world’s toughest mining countries and littered with unexploded ordnance.
Gannon reported from Islamabad. Associated Press writer Tameem Akhgar in Islamabad, Asim Tanvir in Multan, Pakistan and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report