Scores of people were killed during Friday prayers when an explosion tore through a Shiite Muslim mosque in northern Afghanistan, just months after the country fell to the Taliban as U.S. troops pulled out.
A Taliban police officer told the Associated Press that at least 100 people were injured with the “majority of them” killed. Agence France-Presse reported at least 50 deaths based on hospital sources.
While no one has claimed responsibility as yet, Afghanistan’s Shiite Muslim minority have long come under attack from Sunni extremists, including Islamic State terrorists. ISIS-K, an Afghan offshoot of ISIS, has also been targeting the Taliban with bombings in eastern Afghanistan recently.
A former high ranking Afghan security officer whose job was to track ISIS-K and foil their attacks told The Daily Beast that the new Taliban regime does not have the same kind of intelligence network capable of monitoring the terrorists.
“ISIS-K was a major security challenge for the past government and it will be even more of a challenge for the new, weaker Taliban regime,” said the former official who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.
“The previous intelligence team was working around the clock to cope with ISIS-K attacks and we minimized those attacks. The Taliban does not have the intel abilities to cope with brutal ISIS-K attacks, especially against the Shiite Afghan community. ISIS-K is getting stronger and larger with the return of the Taliban and we will see ISIS-K targeting the Taliban and Shia communities.”
An aid to the Taliban’s Interior Minister admitted to the Daily Beast that the new regime could do more. “Apparently this blast was ISIS aiming to kill innocent civilians,” Khalid Zadran said. “For the Shiite community’s safety, our government will put more security arrangements in place.”
The Gozar-e-Sayed Abad Mosque was targeted during the Friday noon prayer, typically the busiest time of the week. Footage circulating after the attack showed scattered bodies among prayer mats and blown out windows.
A spokesman for the Kunduz governor, Matiullah Rohani, said a “suicide bomber struck shortly after noon local time.”
Locals scrambled to take the wounded for medical treatment. Muhammad Qul, a taxi driver, told The Daily Beast he had taken four people to the hospital.
“I just dropped a passenger near the mosque and a huge blast rocked my taxi,” he said. “I drove to the scene to find out what was going on.”
“We picked up four wounded among many dead bodies, put them in the taxi and shifted them to hospital. One of them—a young boy—died in the car.”