Islamic State suicide bomber kills dozens at Kabul mosque

The Islamic State’s Khorasan province claimed credit for the deadly suicide attack at a Shiite mosque in Kabul that killed more than 30 people and wounded scores more. The attack is the second of its kind in the Afghan capital by the Islamic State in the past six weeks.

The claim for the so-called “martyrdom attack” was made through the Amaq News Agency, an official propaganda arm of the Islamic State. According to Amaq, the attack was executed by “fighters of the Islamic State” who were “targeting a Shiite shrine” in Kabul.

Afghan officials reported that 32 people, including a large number of women and children, were killed and 85 more were wounded in the blast at the Baqir-ul-Olum mosque, Khaama Press reported. A single suicide bomber is believed to have detonated his vest as Shiite worshipers congregated inside the mosque.

The Taliban denied any involvement in today’s suicide attack in Kabul.

“The attack in #Kabul today has nothing to do with the Mujahidin of Islamic Emirate,” Zabihullah Mujahid, one of the official spokesmen of the Taliban tweeted earlier today. The Taliban has attempted to distance itself from attacks on civilian targets in an effort to improve its image among the Afghan population.

The Islamic State has a history of attacking Shia minorities in Afghanistan, and today’s attack is the second in Kabul in six weeks. On Oct. 11, a Khorasan province suicide bomber killed at least 18 people in an attack on another Shiite mosque in the capital.

In its most deadly attack to date, the group killed more than 60 people and wounded at least 200 in a coordinated suicide attack while Hazaras, a Shiite minority, were protesting in Kabul in July.

Khorasan province is carrying out the orders of Abu Muhammad al Adnani, the spokesman and senior leader of the Islamic State who was recently killed by the US. Adnani routinely called on his followers to ruthlessly target Shiites, as they are not to be considered as true Muslims. From a speech by Adnani in February 2012 (translated by the SITE Intelligence Group):

Stop the black extension that is coming towards you. Cut off the head of the [Shi’ite] snake, the tail of which is amongst you. Know that the coming stage is a stage of real confrontation and war against the despicable [Shi’ites], whether you like it or not, and that the war of the Sunnis with the [Shi’ites] is not a sectarian war, like people are braying about. A sect is part of something, and the [Shi’ites] don’t have anything to do with Islam; they have their own religion and we have our own. The war of the Sunnis with the [Shi’ites] is a religious war, a holy war of faith, a war of faith and unbelief, a war of idolatry and monotheism. There is no way out of it and there is no swerving from it. The [Shi’ites] know this well.

Additionally, yesterday’s attack highlights the difference in tactics in Kabul between the Islamic State and the rival Taliban. The Islamic State has hit soft targets in the capital while the Taliban has targeted Afghan security forces and foreign forces and workers, which are better protected.

While the Islamic State has experienced difficulty establishing a significant presence in Afghanistan – and has lost ground in areas such as Helmand, Zabul, and Farah – it still has a foothold in the eastern province of Nangarhar, where it fights both the Taliban and Afghan forces. The Islamic State likely is using this position of strength in Nangarhar to launch attacks into the capital. Additionally, the group may be leveraging legacy networks from the greatly weakened Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a portion of which defected to the Islamic State.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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