The Taliban have murdered the head of Kunduz province, along with 14 other people, in a bombing today at a mosque in the neighboring province of Tahkar. The governor had been outspoken in his opposition to the Taliban and allied terror groups operating in the north.
Governor Muhammad Omar was killed while worshiping during Friday prayers at the Spinghar mosque in Taluqan, the provincial capital of Takhar province, Pajwhok Afghan News reported. Omar regularly attended Friday prayers at the Spinghar mosque. The Taliban are thought to have planted the bomb in the mosque prior to the service, and detonated it during prayers. Among those also killed in the blast was the prayer leader of the mosque.
“Prayers were ongoing when the massive explosion that shook the mosque took place,” a witness at the scene of the attack said.
Omar had survived several previous assassination attempts on his life, according to the BBC. And last year, his brother was also assassinated by the Taliban.
Omar had been vocal in his opposition to the Taliban, and had consistently warned of the spread of the Taliban and allied terror groups in the Afghan north. His assassination comes in the wake of news that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency has directed the Taliban to increase their attacks against civilian Afghan leaders, as reported in The Wall Street Journal.
Just days ago, on Oct. 3, Omar said that the security situation in Kunduz province has stabilized, but that there are still more that more than 1,000 Taliban fighters and over 200 “foreigners, including Pakistanis, Chechens, Uzbeks, and Arabs” active in the province, according to Pajwhok Afghan News. The governor also stated that more than 40 percent of the rural areas of Kunduz are still under control of the Taliban.
Over the past several months, Coalition and Afghan forces have heavily targeted senior Taliban leaders in the north. Numerous shadow governors and leaders, many linked to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an al Qaeda affiliate, have been killed or captured in the Afghan north this year.
Within the past week, five top shadow government leaders have been killed or captured. Coalition forces killed Mullah Ismail, the Taliban’s shadow governor of Badghis province, and Abdul Hakim, a senior military commander, in a raid on Oct. 6. On Oct. 4, Maulawi Jawadullah , the district shadow governor for Yangi Qalah in Takhar, was killed in an airstrike. On Oct. 5, Qari Ziauddin, the shadow governor for Faryab province, was killed. And also on Oct. 5, Coalition and Afghan forces captured Saifullah, the Taliban’s shadow governor for the district of Chahar Darah in Kunduz. Both Zianuddin and Saifullah took orders from the Peshawar Shura, one of four Taliban military councils based in Pakistan. And Saifullah also had close links to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an al Qaeda affiliate.
For more information on the security situation in the Afghan north, see:
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.