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Isis claims responsibility for deadly Afghanistan mosque shooting

Isis says attacker used machine-gun to open fire at worshippers

Shweta Sharma
Wednesday 01 May 2024 12:50
Afghans mourn at a burial ceremony of the slain Shiite Muslims after gunmen attacked a mosque in Guzara district of Herat province
Afghans mourn at a burial ceremony of the slain Shiite Muslims after gunmen attacked a mosque in Guzara district of Herat province (AFP via Getty Images)

Isis has claimed responsibility for the deadly shooting at a Shi’ite mosque in western Afghanistan’s Herat province that killed six people.

On Monday night, an armed gunman stormed the Imam Zaman Mosque in the Guzara district of Herat province and opened fire on the people offering prayers.

The attacker fled the scene and one person was left wounded in the attack.

The Isis affiliate in the region, known as the Islamic State Khorasan, took responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on its Telegram channel late on Tuesday.

It said one of its members attacked a "Shi’ite temple" in Herat province with machine gun fire.

The Taliban’s Ministry of Interior said six worshippers, including a woman and a child, were killed in the attack which is being investigated.

"An unidentified armed individual open fired on worshippers with an AK-47,” Abdul Mateen Qani, spokesperson for the Taliban’s Ministry of Interior, said.

ISIS-K, a Sunni extremist group established in 2015, has targeted Shi’ite Muslims in Afghanistan, particularly the Hazara ethnic minority. Afghanistan’s Shi’ite population constitutes around 10 per cent, with the majority being Sunni.

People attend the funeral of a victim of an attack on a Shi'ite Muslim mosque in Herat, Afghanistan, (EPA)

Mohammadi village in Guzara district, where the attack happened, has a majority population of Hazaras.

ISIS-K has significantly escalated its attacks in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover in 2021. These attacks extended to regions previously untouched by the group’s violence, notably areas distant from its stronghold along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in the east.

Disturbing visuals in the aftermath of the attack showed the lifeless body of an infant on the floor. On Tuesday, hundreds of residents gathered to hold the burial of those who were killed and mourned the deaths.

Muslim devotees offer Eid al-Fitr prayers, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan at the Guzargah mosque on 10 April (AFP via Getty Images)

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned the attack and called for immediate action against the perpetrators.

“UNAMA condemns last night’s attack on a Shi’a mosque in Herat which killed and wounded at least 7, including a child. As stated in UNAMA reporting: Investigations and accountability for perpetrators and protection measures for Afghanistan‘s Shi’a communities are urgently needed,” it said on X.

The Afghanistan Freedom Front called the attack "genocide and a crime against humanity”.

“It is with profound sorrow and indignation that we address the recent despicable attack on worshipers in Herat. Once again, our compatriots were ruthlessly targeted while performing prayers at the Imam Zamān Mosque in Andisheh Town, Herat Province,” it said.

Afghans mourn at a burial ceremony of the slain Shiite Muslims after gunmen attacked a mosque in Guzara district of Herat province (AFP via Getty Images)

“These attacks aim to stoke sectarian divisions and sow discord among the diverse ethnic communities of Afghanistan, particularly targeting the Hazara citizens, Shiites, and other vulnerable groups,” it added.

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, also condemned the attack and said “all Afghans must be able to pray in peace”.

“I urge prevention, protection & justice for Hazara/Shia who continue to be targeted, including in Herat. Condolences to the families and community,” he said.

In October 2023, at least 17 people were killed in one of the deadliest bombings by a suicide attacker affiliated with Isis at a Shiite mosque in northern Afghanistan. The worshippers when the mosque was packed for the Friday prayers.

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