Another suicide bombing kills nearly 50 in southern Afghanistan; fresh sectarian conflict feared

Two suicide bombers attacked a Shia mosque during Friday prayer in southern Afghanistan, killing at least 47 people and wounding 70, marking the deadliest attack in Kandahar, the birthplace and stronghold of the Taliban, since the fall of the US-backed Afghan government

Oct 16, 2021
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Suicide bombing in southern Afghanistan

Two suicide bombers attacked a Shia mosque during Friday prayer in southern Afghanistan, killing at least 47 people and wounding 70, marking the deadliest attack in Kandahar, the birthplace and stronghold of the Taliban, since the fall of the US-backed Afghan government. The ISKP claimed responsibility for the attack. The attack-- the first in the southern region since the Taliban takeover, targeting minority Shias--came on Friday, in an ominous indication that the country might be slipping into a new deadlier sectarian conflict. Last week, the ISKP targeted a Shia mosque in the northern province of Kunduz.   

Taliban officials confirmed the attack, and termed the incident an “act of terrorism” and “crime against humanity.” Videos and pictures of the aftermath of the attack, circulated on social media platforms, showed blood pooled bodies and injured people lying on the floor. 

Reports also claimed a security guard outside the mosque shot dead a suspected third suicide bomber. 

The Shiite Assembly of Ahl al-Bayt, a global religious society, has condemned the attack in Kandahar, accusing the security forces in Afghanistan of being “incapable” of addressing such assaults. The Taliban has long been accused of discriminating against Shias and other ethnic minorities in Afghanistan--an allegation the group denies. 

The continuous attacks by the ISKP--which was earlier restricted to the northeastern parts of the country --hint at growing footprints of the group across Afghanistan, posing a serious challenge to the country’s new rulers, the Taliban. 

Since the Taliban takeover on 15 August, the ISKP has mounted over three dozen attacks against Taliban commanders and soldiers. Jalalabad, the capital of the eastern Nangahar province, has turned into a battleground, with both sides killing--in many cases beheading--each others’ members. 

Russia, an important power player in the region post the US withdrawal, is increasingly getting concerned over the growth of radical and extremist groups in Afghanistan, fearing a spillover in Central Asian countries. 

The Taliban, in its recent meeting with US officials, refused any counter-terrorism cooperation, arguing they are capable of tackling challenges posed by the ISKP. 

(SAM)