Islamic State claims deadly school bombing in Kabul

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a school in Kabul yesterday. The group’s Amaq News Agency first issued a short statement on the attack. The so-called caliphate’s media team then produced a second, longer message, claiming that 200 Shiites from Afghanistan’s Hazara community were killed or wounded in the blast.

The Afghan government has offered conflicting casualty claims, saying that dozens of people were killed.*

The Taliban was quick to deny any involvement. But the Islamic State’s Wilayah Khorasan (or Khorasan “province”), which operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has turned the killing of Shiite civilians into a bloodsport, often attacking mosques, rallies, and other facilities frequented by the religious minority.

The latest bombing is further evidence of three disturbing trends in Afghanistan: The Islamic State’s suicide bombers regularly strike in the Afghan capital, especially against Shiites, while also targeting schools or other educational facilities.

In June, the UN reported that it had “documented 993 civilian casualties (321 killed and 672 injured) in Kabul province during the first six months of 2018.” The overwhelming majority of these casualties, 95 per cent, “were caused by suicide and complex attacks.” And “more than half” of these casualties were attributed to “suicide and complex” operations claimed by the Islamic State.

In other words, the Islamic State’s “martyrs” are a major cause of civilian casualties in the Afghan capital and the surrounding area.

Moreover, the Islamic State deliberately targets Shiite civilians in its “suicide and complex attacks” and this accounts for a large share of the casualties.

The UN reported that the jihadists — both the Taliban and the Islamic State — have increasingly targeted civilians. That is, the jihadists are deliberately attempting to kill civilians. “Civilian casualties from attacks targeting civilians claimed by Taliban and [Islamic State] each increased fourfold” during the first six months of 2018, according to the UN.

The Islamic State deliberately kills Shiite civilians, in particular. “Consistent with the disturbing trends observed in 2016 and 2017,” the UN reported, forces opposed to the Afghan government “continued to direct attacks against the [Shiite] Muslim population, most of whom are ethnic Hazara, causing 366 civilian casualties (115 deaths and 251 injured).” Almost all of these Shiite casualties were the result of “suicide and complex” operations claimed by the Islamic State’s loyalists.

The United Nations has previously documented regular attacks on Afghan schools carried out by both the Islamic State and the Taliban as well.

During the first three months of 2018, for instance, a UN task force “verified 11 incidents of attacks against schools and related personnel.” Five of these were attributed to the Taliban, three to the Islamic State’s Wilayah Khorasan, two to “undetermined anti-government elements” and one to “a pro-government militia.” There were also 13 similar incidents during the previous quarter (the last three months of 2017).

“Of concern were two incidents of threats by the Taliban against education facilities that led to widespread school closures in the provinces of Kunduz (342 schools) and Logar (29 schools),” the UN reported in June. Other schools have been closed as well.

In late July, the Islamic State’s jihadists raided a school for midwives in Jalalabad.

*Sentence updated after publication to say “dozens” of people were killed as the casualty figures continue to vary by source.

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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