EDITORIAL: Afghanistan’s fragile peace has once again given way to a terrorist strike as a powerful blast ripped through the Sediqia Mosque in Kabul during evening prayers, killing at least 21 people, among them nine young children, and wounding more than two dozen others.
The casualty figures are feared to rise much higher. No group has taken credit for the carnage. But it bears the hallmarks of a Salafist terrorist organisation, the Islamic State- Khorasan, (IS-K), which claimed responsibility for some of worst attacks on the Shia community whom it regards as heretics.
Last October, it took credit for two devastating suicide bombings on Shia mosques in Kunduz and Kandahar that left 150 people dead and countless others wounded. Sediqia, however, is a Sunni mosque. Earlier this year, some 150 people were killed in two separate attacks on Sufi mosques.
While deploring the latest butchery in Kabul, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan noted that there has been a disturbing series of bombings that killed and injured more than 250 people during the recent weeks — the highest monthly number of civilians’ casualties over the last year.
Those targeted include prominent religious leaders close to the Taliban, which is battling the IS-K. Last October, this terrorist group had claimed responsibility for killing an important Taliban cleric at his religious centre in Kabul.
These atrocities seem to be designed to destabilise the Taliban government by inciting sectarian conflict so as to use the ensuing chaos to strengthen its foothold in that country. In fact, according to a report of the UN Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team released a few months ago, IS-K has already been taking advantage of the turmoil in Afghanistan to enhance its ability to operate across borders.
To that end, it has been recruiting Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) fighters by helping the group expand itself under a Uighur team and supporting its cause, which is to trigger an insurgency in China’s Xinjiang province. Picking an easier route, these people have also been attacking Chinese interests in Pakistan.
Afghanistan is now a witch’s brew of all sorts of international jihadist groups, ranging from al Qaeda, ETIM, to IS-K. And, of course, there is the Pakistan-centric terrorist outfit, TTP. Many of the IS-K militants are former TTP members. All that has helped the IS-K augment its capability to mount attacks across the region.
It has already been responsible for several attacks on Shia mosques, the hapless Shia Hazaras as well as churches and Sufi shrines in this country. The latest act of cruelty in Kabul clearly is aimed at undermining the peace and security of Afghanistan, which also holds implications for Pakistan and other countries in this region, and beyond.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022