Islamic State launches mortars at memorial service in Kabul

The Islamic State’s Khorasan arm quickly claimed responsibility for an attack on a memorial service in the Afghan capital earlier today. The rally was held in honor of Abdul Ali Mazari, an ethnic Hazara leader who was killed by the Taliban in 1995. At least three people were killed and 19 wounded, according to initial casualty reports.

The so-called caliphate’s men have repeatedly targeted Shiite civilians in Kabul. The attack today was the latest in a series of such operations, which have increased the civilian death toll in Afghanistan.

The Islamic State released a statement online claiming that 30 “Rafidi mushirkin,” meaning Shiite polytheists, were killed or injured. That figure is not far off from independent reporting. The group noted that former Afghan president Hamid Karzai (described as a “taghut”) “was in attendance,” along with a number of “top officials” from the “apostate Afghan government” and members of the “polytheist parliament.”

The jihadists claim to have used “62 mortars and 15 rockets,” before two “Khilafah soldiers executed an inghimasi operation” on the crowd. “Inghimasi” attacks usually involve well-trained guerrilla fighters who immerse themselves among the the enemy and are willing to die for the cause. The Islamic State says the pair used “machine guns in clashing with the security personnel.”

According to TOLOnews, the jihadists’ mortars fell midday, as Chief Executive of the National Unity Government Abdullah Abdullah was speaking to the crowd.

This is not the first time that the Islamic State has used mortars to disrupt an Afghan official’s public appearance.

On Aug. 21, 2018, the jihadists launched a coordinated attack with mortars as President Ashraf Ghani was delivering a speech in Kabul. That assault was swiftly thwarted by Afghanistan’s Crisis Response Unit 222 and the Afghan Air Force. But questions were raised concerning the Islamic State’s ability to set up mortars in fixed positions outside of an event attended by the Afghan president.

Similar questions were raised after today’s events, as some blamed Ghani’s government for failing to prevent the jihadists from lobbing mortars into the rally.

The UN has repeatedly warned that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s loyalists are deliberately targeting Shiite civilians in Kabul. Indeed, the jihadists are seeking to stoke sectarian tensions in Afghanistan, just as they have elsewhere.

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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