Jihadists attack Afghan interior ministry in Kabul

A team of jihadists assaulted Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior in Kabul earlier today. The attack reportedly began when two vehicles were driven at the Interior Ministry’s gate. This was followed by explosions and a shootout with security forces.

According to TOLOnews, ten jihadists participated in the raid and Afghan officials have confirmed that they were wearing military uniforms. The ensuing firefight lasted for two hours and all ten operatives eventually perished. The Afghan government also suffered casualties, though it is not clear how many.

The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency claimed credit for the attack, saying it is was an inghimasi operation conducted by the so-called caliphate’s arm in the region. Inghimasis are well-trained guerrilla fighters who are prepared to die in battle. They are different from traditional suicide bombers in that they don’t detonate their explosive belts at the outset of the fight, but instead first battle their enemies with light arms or other weapons. They “immerse” themselves in the battle before they die, either as a result of detonating their explosive vests or at their enemies’ hands.

As FDD’s Long War Journal has reported in the past, both the Islamic State and al Qaeda have repeatedly deployed inghimasi teams across several theaters of war.

Gen. John Nicholson, who oversees the US-led war effort in Afghanistan, quickly disputed the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility. According to the Associated Press, Nicholson told reporters that American officials “believe it was a Taliban-Haqqani attack, but we’re still developing that information.” The tactics “track with” those employed by the Haqqani Network, Nicholson claimed. The Haqqanis have been allied with al Qaeda since the 1980s and are an integral part of the Taliban’s coalition. “We at this time do not believe it was an ISIS attack,” Nicholson said.

Both the Taliban and the Islamic State have claimed responsibility for multiple operations inside the Afghan capital this year. Several significant jihadist operations inside Kabul since the beginning of the year are listed below.

On Jan. 20 and 21, a Taliban assault squad raided the Intercontinental Hotel. Afghan security forces finally ended the siege after more than 12 hours. At least 22 people, including several Americans, were killed and others wounded. It was the second time the hotel had been targeted in such a manner, as another jihadist team invaded the hotel in 2011.

On Jan. 27, a Taliban suicide bomber detonated his vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) — an ambulance packed with explosives — at the second gate of the old ministry of interior building in Kabul. The death toll from the bombing has climbed to more than 100 victims.

On Jan. 29, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for an inghimasi attack near the Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Kabul, killing multiple Afghan servicemen.

On Mar. 21, a Islamic State suicide bomber detonated himself at a Shiite shrine in Kabul, killing or wounding dozens of civilians.

On Apr. 22, a suicide bomber dispatched by the Islamic State’s Khorasan “province” struck a voter registration center in Kabul. Dozens were killed, including women and children, and more than 100 others were wounded in the blast. The bombing was part of the Islamic State’s worldwide campaign against democratic elections. Earlier that same day, the group’s spokesman, Abu al-Hasan al-Muhajir, had threatened anyone who participated in Iraq’s then upcoming elections. Al-Muhajir argued that the elections were illegitimate on religious grounds — an argument that applied equally to Afghanistan’s voting.

On Apr. 30, two Islamic State suicide bombers struck near the Afghan intelligence headquarters. The second bomber waited until journalists and medical personnel had gathered before blowing himself up. 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 attacks listed above are just some of those conducted in the Afghan capital in recent months.

*Note: This report draws from several articles previously published by FDD’s Long War Journal.

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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