Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Deadly Attack on Shiite Mosque in Afghanistan

Deadly mosque attack in Afghanistan claimed by Islamic State, raising concerns over Taliban's ability to protect minorities despite their pledge.

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Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Deadly Attack on Shiite Mosque in Afghanistan

Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Deadly Attack on Shiite Mosque in Afghanistan

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for a deadly shooting at a Shiite mosque in Herat province, Afghanistan on May 1, 2024. The attack targeted members of the country's minority Shiite community during evening prayers, killing six civilians, including the mosque's imam and a 3-year-old child. One person was also wounded in the incident.

According to the Taliban Interior Ministry, an unknown armed person opened fire on worshippers in the Imam Zaman Mosque in the Guzara district of Herat. However, local residents claimed that a team of three gunmen carried out the attack. The militant group said in a statement that one of its members attacked the "Shiite temple" with machine-gun fire before fleeing the scene.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai strongly condemned the "terrorist act" as being against all religious and human standards. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also denounced the mosque shooting and called for investigations, accountability for the perpetrators, and protection measures for Afghanistan's Shiite communities.

Why this matters: The attack is the latest in a series of deadly incidents linked to the Islamic State in Afghanistan since the Taliban's return to power in 2021. The IS affiliate in Afghanistan is a major Taliban rival and frequently targets schools, hospitals, mosques, and Shiite areas throughout the country. The Taliban government has pledged to protect religious and ethnic minorities, but rights monitors say they have done little to fulfill that promise.

The Iranian Embassy in Kabul condemned the attack on the mosque, calling the IS-K a "common external threat" to both Iran and Afghanistan. The violence has increased since the Taliban reclaimed power after the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan. A UN Security Council report released in January 2024 stated that IS still has "substantial" recruitment in Afghanistan and the ability to project a threat beyond the region. "The Taliban authorities have been criticized for downplaying the death toll and security threats posed by the IS in Afghanistan, despite their pledge to protect religious and ethnic minorities," the report noted.

Key Takeaways

  • Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly attack on Shiite mosque in Herat, Afghanistan.
  • Attack killed 6 civilians, including imam and 3-year-old child, and wounded 1 person.
  • Taliban government criticized for downplaying IS threat and failing to protect minorities.
  • Iran condemns attack, calls IS-K a "common external threat" to Iran and Afghanistan.
  • UN report states IS maintains "substantial" recruitment and ability to project threat in Afghanistan.