Suicide bomber strikes military academy in Kabul

The Islamic State says this suicide bomber struck outside a military academy in Kabul today.

A suicide bomber dispatched by the Islamic State’s Khorasan province struck outside the Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Kabul earlier today. It is the second time that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s loyalists have targeted the academy, which hosts training for Afghan Army recruits.

At least several people were killed and more than a dozen others wounded, according to initial casualty reports. It appears that the bomber made it to the entrance gate, but not into the academy. Citing eyewitnesses, TOLOnews reported that the “suicide bomber detonated his explosives among the cadets who were leaving the university.”

The Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, posting a picture of the so-called “martyr” responsible. The group claims that 70 were killed or wounded in the bombing. That is a higher casualty toll than that offered by independent accounts, but no final count has been tallied as of yet

In Jan. 2018, the Islamic State’s Khorasan arm sent a team of its inghimasi fighters to assault the same military academy.  Inghimasis are generally 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 or vests 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 killing themselves.

The attack earlier today was a more traditional suicide bombing, as the jihadist did not participate in a gun battle before activating his explosive device.

Although the Taliban contests or controls more ground in Afghanistan, the Islamic State’s regional branch is especially prolific when it comes to suicide bombings.

According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the Islamic State’s Khorasan “province” conducted approximately 36 “suicide and complex attacks” in Afghanistan in 2018. These terrorist operations resulted in “1,892 civilian casualties,” with 557 people killed and another 1,335 injured.

UNAMA also attributed 21 “suicide and complex” attacks to the Taliban in 2018, with these operations resulting in “642 civilian casualties,” including “216 deaths and 426 injured.” Although the Taliban conducted 15 less such operations than its Islamic State rivals in 2018, the group did carry out the “single deadliest incident UNAMA has ever recorded.” On Jan. 27, 2018, the Taliban’s “suicide ambulance attack” killed 114 people and wounded 229 more.

Kabul continues to be the jihadists’ number one target when it comes to suicide bombings and inghimasi operations. Twenty-eight (28) of the 65 “suicide and complex attacks” counted by UNAMA in 2018 occurred inside the Afghan capital. This was more than in any other area of Afghanistan. These same “martyrdom” operations accounted for “1,686 civilian casualties (554 deaths and 1,132 injuries)” in Kabul last year, a “five per cent increase in the number of casualties from” 2017.

The “attacks perpetrated in Kabul mainly targeted civilians, including the civilian Government administration, places of worship, education facilities, election-related sites and other ‘soft’ targets,” UNAMA reported.

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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