An attack rocked a Shia mosque in Kandahar, Afghanistan killing at least 33 people and wounding 73 more according to local health officials.

The blast occurred at the city’s Bibi Fatima mosque, the largest mosque for Shia worshippers, as people were gathering for prayers. One eyewitness told the AFP news service that the mosque was hit with three explosions. One at the mosque’s main door, another at a southern area, and a third where worshippers wash prior to entering.

However, another eyewitness told the Associated Press that the mosque was attacked by four suicide bombers. He said that two detonated suicide vests at the main security gate, allowing the other two to enter the mosque where they detonated their explosives among the gathered worshippers. The mosque is generally attended by 500 people.

Qari Saeed Khosti, the Taliban’s Interior Ministry spokesman, said that authorities were collecting details of the explosion.

“We are saddened to learn that an explosion took place in a mosque of the Shia brotherhood in the first district of Kandahar city in which a number of our compatriots were martyred and wounded,” Khosti said.

The Taliban deployed fighters to the area “to determine the nature of the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice,” he added.

Photographs posted to social media by local photojournalists showed many people dead or seriously wounded on the bloody floor of the mosque.

The Taliban appealed to the local citizens to donate blood for the many wounded. 

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the deadly bombing.

Shia mosque attack Kandahar
Civilians try to aid fellow worshippers at a Shia mosque in Kandahar. (Courtesy of Zaki Daryabi/Twitter)

This latest atrocity follows days after a suicide bomb attack by the Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) on a Shi’ite mosque in the northern city of Kunduz killed scores of people and wounded more than 100 others. Khorasan is the historical name for parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Taliban continuously crow about how they have brought peace and stability to Afghanistan after decades of fighting against the U.S.-led coalition. 

While they have downplayed the threat from ISIS-K, these high-profile attacks show that the Taliban, as the U.S. before them, are hard-pressed to stop suicide bombers from carrying out deadly attacks against civilians, especially in areas where large segments of the population gather. ISIS-K motive behind the attacks could be to expose the weakness of the Taliban to stop them.

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Further, by continuing to attack the Shi’ite minority ISIS-K may be intent on inflaming tensions among different ethnic and sectarian groups inside of Afghanistan.

 

A Fight for Control

ISIS-K was founded in 2015 at the height of its parent organization’s rise in Iraq and Syria. It attracted jihadists from Afghanistan and Pakistan, including many Taliban members who believed that the Taliban weren’t extreme enough.

ISIS-K fighters are part of the terror group’s global network. The terrorist organization has accused the Taliban of “abandoning jihad” while negotiating peace deals with the U.S. from “posh hotels” in Doha. 

The U.S., under both the Trump and Biden administrations, discounted the threat of ISIS-K and ignored the fighting on the ground. The bombing of the Kabul airport in August changed that perception. 

The main difference between the Taliban and ISIS is their scope. The Taliban wanted to once again rule Afghanistan and are not interested in expanding their influence. However, ISIS wants a global jihad and is playing upon the continued violence and instability in Afghanistan. 

The Taliban have always had and still have a close relationship with al-Qaeda. Both al-Qaeda and ISIS have suffered tremendous losses in the fighting against the U.S. and NATO coalition forces.

With the Taliban’s re-emergence, terrorism analysts have reported that thousands of foreign fighters are flocking to Afghanistan once again. 

ISIS and al-Qaeda will fight for control over these foreign fighters. As long as the Taliban rule, they’ll maintain their close cooperation with al-Qaeda. 

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