A Taliban suicide bomber who apparently hid an explosive device in his turban killed four people, including a senior Afghan cleric, in an attack at mosque today in Kandahar. The attack took place during a memorial service for Ahmed Wali Karzai, the influential brother of President Hamid Karzai.
The suicide bomber struck at Kandahar city’s Red Mosque as VIPs gathered to mourn the death of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the controversial chief of Kandahar’s provincial council who was a lightning rod for criticism due to his links to corruption and his abuse of power in the Afghan south. Although the Taliban have claimed credit for the assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai, Afghan power brokers in Kandahar have dismissed the claims.
Among those killed in today’s bombing at the Red Mosque were Hikmatullah Hikmat, the chief of Kandahar’s Ulema Council, which governs religious issues; another senior cleric; and a child. The suicide bomber is thought to have entered the mosque with clerics as they are not searched, and seated himself next to Hikmat. Fifteen people were wounded in the attack. Senior dignitaries visiting Kandahar were not among those killed or wounded. President Karzai was not present at the mosque.
“Our understanding at this point is that no one in the delegation from Kabul was hurt,” President Karzai’s spokesman said.
The Taliban have not released a statement at their website, Voice of Jihad, to claim credit for the attack, and may not do so as the bombing took place in a mosque. The Taliban have previously denied carrying out attacks in mosques and are sensitive to criticism that the group targets civilians. Last year, the United Nations said the Taliban were responsible for 78 percent of civilian deaths in Afghanistan.
The Taliban have carried out numerous attacks in mosques in the past, including the assassination of Kunduz’s governor in the province of Takhar on Oct. 8, 2010.
Today’s attack, like previous suicide operations carried out by the Taliban in Kandahar this year, was likely carried out by the Mullah Dadullah Mahaz, or the Mullah Dadullah Front, a radical Taliban subgroup closely linked to al Qaeda. US military intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that this subgroup is suspected of having carried out the recent attacks in Kandahar.
The Mullah Dadullah Front is a wing of the Taliban in the south that has adopted al Qaeda’s tactics and ideology, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal in December 2010. The Mullah Dadullah Front is led by Mullah Adbul Qayoum Zakir, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee who has since been promoted as the Taliban’s top military commander and co-leader of the Taliban’s Quetta Shura.
- Suicide bomber kills four in Kandahar, Dawn
- Blast Hits Mosque During Service for Afghan President’s Relative, The New York Times
- Financier for ‘Mullah Dadullah Front’ captured in Afghan south, The Long War Journal