Islamic State claims bombings at sports club in Kabul

A suicide bomber detonated himself at a sports club hosting a wrestling match in the Afghan capital earlier today. As emergency personnel and the media converged on the scene, a second, larger explosion rocked the area. The follow-on blast was apparently caused when a car packed with explosives was remotely detonated, though there is some uncertainty concerning the exact details.

The attacks were claimed by the Islamic State, which issued a report via its Amaq News Agency and then a second statement (seen above). The jihadists claim that upwards of 150 people were killed or injured.

Initial independent casualty reports vary, but at least 20 people are thought to have been killed and dozens more wounded.

TOLOnews, an Afghan media outlet, reported that two of the victims were its journalists. Samim Faramarz (28) and his cameraman, Ramiz Ahmadi (23), were killed while reporting on the first explosion.

TOLOnews described the two as “[y]oung, vibrant and dedicated to their jobs,” adding that the death of the two popular journalists “is a great loss to TOLOnews and to the media in Afghanistan.”

Several media outlets, including TOLOnews, lost journalists in a similar operation conducted by the Islamic State’s regional arm on Apr. 30. In that attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a security checkpoint for the National Directorate of Security (NDS). A second bomber then targeted journalists who were covering the aftermath of the first explosion. This same tactic has been employed by the jihadists in other theaters.

At least nine journalists were killed, and six others wounded in the Apr. 30 bombings. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), it “was the deadliest attack on the media since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.” [For more, see FDD’s Long War Journal report: ISIS suicide bombers target security forces, journalists in Kabul.]

The bombings earlier today were carried out in a neighborhood predominately inhabited by Shiites. The Islamic State deliberately targets the religious minority in Afghanistan and elsewhere as part of its sectarian campaign.

The so-called caliphate’s men regularly strike targets inside Kabul, including government institutions and facilities frequented by Shiites.

Since the beginning of the year, the Islamic State’s jihadists have struck the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development twice, Afghanistan’s ministry of interior, and a gathering of the pro-government Afghan Ulema Council, among other government-affiliated locations.

In July, an Islamic State suicide bomber struck just outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul minutes after Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, Afghanistan’s first vice president, passed through the area on his way to a celebration in honor of his return to the country. Dostum is a controversial figure who has been accused of various crimes throughout his career.

On Aug. 21, an Islamic State mortar team conducted an attack in Kabul as President Ashraf Ghani was delivering a speech. That assault did little damage, as Afghanistan’s Crisis Response Unit 222 and the Afghan Air Force were called in to hunt down the jihadists.

These are just some of the operations conducted by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s loyalists this year in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan.

*Note: Some of the language in this report was drawn from previous articles 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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