Taliban IED blast kills 35 civilians in western Afghanistan

A roadside bomb planted by the Taliban in the western Afghan province of Farah killed 35 civilians and wounded 27 today. But the Taliban continues to deny responsibility for attacks that clearly target civilians.

The attack took place “in the Ab Khorma area of Farah province” along the Herat-Kandahar Highway, Mohibullah Mohib, Farah’s provincial police spokesman, told Reuters.

“The bomb was freshly planted by the Taliban insurgents to target Afghan and foreign security forces,” Mohib said.

The Taliban has once again denied responsibility for the deadly attack that killed and wounded scores of civilians. However, the Taliban’s denial is not credible.

That’s because the Herat-Kandahar Highway passes through Bala Bulak and Gulistan districts in Farah province. Both of these districts are under Taliban control. There are no other insurgent groups that operate in these two districts. The Taliban defeated the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province in Farah years ago.

The small breakaway “High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate” faction led by Mullah Mohammad Rasul is known to operate in Shindand district in neighboring Herat province, but it has been dormant and has avoided attacking Afghan security forces and civilians.

The Taliban is clearly attempting to distance itself from attacks in which civilians are killed. There have now been three high-profile suicide attacks in Kabul and Nangarhar this past month that have gone unclaimed. One of these attacks, which targeted Amrullah Saleh, the former head of Afghanistan’s intelligence service and a candidate for vice president, killed 20 people and wounded 50 more. Saleh is a staunch opponent of the Taliban and is responsible for killing and detailing thousands of its leaders and members. The other two attacks are the July 19 suicide bombings that killed 10 civilians at Kabul University and five civilians at a wedding in Nangarhar.

While it is possible that the rival Islamic State carried out these attacks, the likelihood decreases significantly as time passes. The Islamic State historically is quick to claim its attacks, such as the July 25 bus bombing that killed 11 people. That attack was claimed the same day. The Islamic State’s footprint in Afghanistan is much smaller than that of the Taliban, and the Islamic State seeks to promote its operations to inflate its importance.

The Taliban has attempted to deny its role in attacks that intentionally or unintentionally target and kill civilians as it is sensitive to criticism on this subject. The Taliban seeks to brand the Afghan government and the US as the prime cause of civilian deaths, while promoting itself as the protector of the Afghan people. Attacks such as the one today in Farah pierce the Taliban’s attempts at deception.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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