ISIS suicide bombers target security forces, journalists in Kabul

Two suicide bombers struck in the Kabul, Afghanistan earlier today. The attacks were quickly claimed by the Islamic State’s so-called Khorasan “province,” which released a picture of the jihadists responsible (seen above). The two “martyrs” were identified as Qa’qa’ al-Kurdi and Khalil al-Qurashi.

The Islamic State claims that the bombers detonated themselves near the Afghan intelligence headquarters, killing or wounding 110 people. The first suicide jihadist reportedly blew himself up near a security checkpoint for the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in the Shash Darak district. The second bomber targeted journalists who were covering the aftermath of the first explosion. Jihadists have repeatedly employed this tactic through the years, waiting for first responders and others to arrive at the scene before launching a follow-on attack.

Hashmat Stanikzai, a police spokesman, told AFP that the second terrorist “disguised himself as a journalist and detonated himself among the crowd.”

At least nine journalists were killed, and six others wounded. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), it “was the deadliest attack on the media since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.”

“The second blast killed ToloNews cameraman Yar Mohammad Tokhi, three Radio Azadai (Radio Free Europe) journalists (Ebadollah Hananzi, Sabvon Kakeker and Maharam Darani), two TV1 cameramen (Ghazi Rasoli and Norozali Rajabi, aka Khamoush), AFP photographer Shah Marai Fezi, Mashal TV reporter Salim Talash and Mashal TV cameraman Ali Salimi,” RSF said in a statement. The wounded journalists “who were badly injured” include “Naser Hashemi of Al Jazeera, Omar Soltani of Reuters, Ahmadshah Azimi of Nedai Aghah, Ayar Amar of the weekly Vahdat Mili and Davod Ghisanai of the privately-owned TV channel Mivand.”

RSF also noted that all of the slain journalists “were less than 30 years old,” meaning that they were teenagers or even younger when the Afghan War began in late 2001.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s loyalists have hit locations inside Kabul more than once this year. Their targets in the Afghan capital have included a voter registration office, a military academy and a shrine frequented by Shiite worshippers.

Separately, a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in the Daman district of Kandahar province. At least eight members of NATO’s Resolute Support were wounded. Resolute Support pointed out that “several Afghan Uniform Police and Afghan civilians, including a group of children, were either killed or wounded in the blast.”

Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of Resolute Support, blamed the Taliban, pointing out that civilians were killed in the attack.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those wounded, and with the innocent Afghans whose lives were needlessly taken from them by the enemies of Afghanistan,” Gen. John Nicholson said. “In their spring offensive announcement, the Taliban claimed they would pay special attention to protecting the lives and properties of the Afghan people; however, their hypocrisy was on full display today as they viciously killed Afghan citizens, including children who were Madrassa students.”

ToloNews reported that five Romanian soldiers were among Resolute Support’s wounded, and “at least 11 students at a Madrassa close to the scene of the explosion were killed in the bombing.”

Although the Taliban likes to highlight instances in which coalition and Afghan forces harm innocent civilians, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has consistently found that the Taliban’s violence is the leading cause of civilian casualties.

In a report released earlier this month, UNAMA noted that “the number of civilian casualties attributed to Anti-Government Elements increased” during the first three months of 2018 as compared to the same period in 2017. “Anti-Government Elements caused 1,500 civilian casualties (511 deaths and 989 injured),” which is “a six per cent increase from the same period last year.” UNAMA attributed about two-thirds (67 per cent) of these casualties to “Anti-Government Elements,” with “50 per cent attributed to Taliban, 11 per cent to Daesh/Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), four per cent to unidentified Anti-Government Elements (including self-proclaimed Daesh/ISKP), and two per cent to fighting between these Anti-Government Element groups.”

As the attacks in Afghanistan earlier today show, civilians are still affected by this violence at an alarmingly high rate.

Both the Islamic State and the Taliban continue to target security forces as well.

Not long after the suicide bombings in Kabul, the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency claimed that an Afghan intelligence commander was killed and a police chief wounded in a pair of bombings in the city of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province.

And in a follow-up statement on the Kabul attack, Amaq said that the twin bombings were the third instance in which “the Afghan intelligence headquarters” had been targeted in the capital this year. Amaq crowed that “among the dead and injured” were “correspondents and photographers from channels and international news agencies.”

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

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