A suicide bomber killed 40 people and wounded at least 50 more in at attack that targeted security personnel and government officials as they left a mosque in the northern Afghan province of Faryab.
Today’s attack took place at the Eid Gah mosque in Maimana, the provincial capital of Faryab. The suicide bomber detonated a large explosive device at the gate of the mosque as worshipers left the service for Eid al Adha. The suicide bomber may have been wearing a police uniform, TOLONews reported.
At least 19 security personnel from the Army, police, and the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence service, were killed in the blast, according to TOLONews.
“The high number of security forces present was because a number of officials were attending the mosque, including the provincial governor and Faryab members of parliament,” the Afghan news service reported.
No group has claimed credit for today’s attack, but the Taliban and their ally, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, have carried out numerous attacks at mosques in northern Afghanistan the past, including the assassination of Kunduz’s governor in the province of Takhar on Oct. 8, 2010, and a suicide bombing that killed seven people, including a local police commander, in an attack at a mosque in Baghlan on Nov. 6, 2011. The Taliban have also conducted attacks in mosques and during funerals in southern and eastern Afghanistan, and Kabul. Many of the attacks have targeted senior Afghan government and security officials.
In a separate attack in Maimana today, a former Taliban leader who defected to the government along with 11 fighters last year was gunned down, according to Pajhwok Afghan News.
The suicide attack in Faryab took place just two days after Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar released an Eid al Adha statement in which he said that the group must “pay full attention to the prevention of civilian casualties.”
“The enemy has tried and is trying to blame the Mujahideen for the civilian casualties,” Omar continued. The United Nations has said the Taliban are responsible for an estimated 80 percent of the attacks that cause civilian casualties.
Also, two days ago, Afghan security personnel killed Mullah Yaar Mohammad, the Taliban’s shadow governor of Faryab, and several of his fighters after they overran a bazaar in a village. Five policemen and 25 Taliban fighters were killed after Afghan security forces rushed to retake control of the village.
Today’s suicide attack was likely carried out by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an al Qaeda affiliate that has integrated its leadership with the Taliban in the Afghan north. The IMU has claimed credit for several suicide attacks in the north, including the the November 2011 assault on a US Provincial Reconstruction Team in the peaceful province of Panjshir. At the end of November 2011, the IMU issued a statement claiming that 87 of its members had been killed during operations in Afghanistan over the past year; many of those killed died in suicide attacks. The IMU commanders and fighters listed as “martyred” were from Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Germany, and Russia.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.