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Blasts, suicide bombs and chaos continue to increase in Afghanistan

by | Aug 18, 2022 | South Asia

Taliban's biggest challenge fighting Islamic State- Khorasan militant groups

New Delhi August 18, 2021

More than 30 people are feared dead while dozens of worshippers are wounded including children in a suicidal blast in a Siddiquiya Mosque in Kabul on August 17, 2022. The Italian Emergency hospital in Kabul said that at least 27 wounded civilians, including five children, were brought there from the site of the bomb blast.
Top religious scholar Sheikh Amir Mohammad Kabuli, who was among the worshippers and critical of the militant group, Islamic State IS-K is also feared dead in the blast. The blast took place in a mosque situated in the Khairkhana area of Kabul.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, the latest to strike the country in the year since the Taliban seized power. There were fears the casualty numbers could rise further.
Khalid Zadran, the Taliban-appointed spokesperson for the Kabul police chief, confirmed an explosion inside a mosque in northern Kabul but would not provide a casualty toll or a breakdown of the dead and wounded. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also condemned the explosion and vowed that the “perpetrators of such crimes will soon be brought to justice and will be punished.”
Daesh terror group or Islamic State Khorasan (IS -K) has stepped up attacks targeting the Taliban and civilians since the Taliban’s takeover last August as US and NATO troops were in the final stages of their withdrawal from the country.
Taliban scholar Sheikh Rahimullah Haqqani was killed: Last week, a suicide bomb blast took place in Kabul. In the blast, a prominent Afghan cleric who supported the Taliban, Sheikh Rahimullah Haqqani was killed. He is one of the highest profile figures to have been killed in the country since the
Taliban returned to power last year.

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the bombing saying it happened inside his office. Sheikh Haqqani was a supporter of Afghanistan’s Taliban government and a prominent critic of the jihadist militant group Islamic State Khorasan Province a regional affiliate of IS that operates in Afghanistan and opposes the Taliban’s rule. Islamic State group (IS) said a militant named Khalid al-Logari detonated a suicide vest inside the cleric’s office in the capital Kabul, killing him and several guards.

IS accused the cleric, Rahimullah Haqqani, of “inciting the killing of the IS mujahidin IS members. According to mainstream media, the cleric died when a man detonated explosives hidden in an artificial plastic limb. The group released the claim in the name of its Khorasan Province branch (ISKP) via its channels on the messaging app Telegram.

In the last month, three prominent religious leaders were targeted in Kabul and there were assassinations in other cities. Earlier IS groups were targeting minorities like Shia or Hazara but now since the anniversary of Taliban rule, the target has been the Taliban and their supporters.

Killings and extra-judicial killings on rising
There have been about 850 deaths in Afghanistan since August 15, 2021. Nearly half of these deaths are from terror attacks by the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) group. But there has been a substantial jump in human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, detentions and torture by the Taliban, according to a United Nations report. Between August 2021 and June 2022, Afghanistan saw 160 extrajudicial killings of former government and security force officials.

Local journalists and residents of Kabul say that for a year, the Taliban has been after the Islamic State (K) group members and others who oppose Taliban rule and extrajudicially kill, and hang individuals accusing them of being members of Afghanistan’s branch of the Islamic State or traitors. This has created a lot of dissidents and a feeling is that immunity given last year was just lip service, however, revenge and individual extrajudicial killings continue.

Last year, IS carried out a suicide bombing in August outside Kabul airport that killed more than 150 people and is a fierce rival of the Taliban. The two groups are now engaged in a murky and bloody battle.

IS, known locally as “Daesh,” is using some of the same hit-and-run tactics that the Taliban so successfully employed against the previous government, including roadside bombs and stealthy assassinations. IS accuses the Taliban of being “apostates” for not being sufficiently hardline; the Taliban dismiss IS as heretical extremists.

‘Scholars for dollars’
BBC monitoring said that a new video released by the pro-IS media outfit al-Azaim has celebrated two recent deadly attacks on buses transporting Taliban members. The 8:36-minute, English-language video entitled “The Deadly Streets” was shared with the pro-IS website I’lam on 7 August. Some of this material appears to be a modified and shortened version of a Pashto/Dari-language al-Azaim production which appeared on the same site a few days beforehand.

The video’s narrator begins by addressing diplomatic efforts by the Taliban to achieve international recognition, dating back to the 2020 Doha agreement with the US. It also makes mention of the recent high-profile meeting of clerics and politicians in Kabul – dubbed here as “scholars for dollars” – and attacks the Afghan group for “befriending” and “granting security” to “infidels”.

The question is then asked: “Do they think that they will be able to extinguish the flames of war of the Khalifah soldiers… by issuing irrational fatwas from their rotund stomachs?”. The narrator says that despite high security, the Kabul conference was attacked, as claimed by IS at the time. The video then celebrates an attack that occurred in Herat shortly after the conference, for which IS had previously claimed responsibility.

It includes footage released by IS at the time showing a bus coming under fire at a junction and crashing. The narrator says that “inevitably” the Taliban’s associations with the “local and international kuffar” will not protect them from such attacks. It ends by offering an enduring threat to the Taliban, saying: “The bloody roads of every city will leave only dead messages for you”.

It is perhaps interesting that the phrase “bloody roads” is used rather than the eponymous “deadly streets”, perhaps suggesting that the English version of the script had been translated from another language. (Source: I’lam website in English 7 Aug 22)

One year regime of the Taliban
Since regaining power, the Taliban has faced a crippling economic crisis as the international community, which does not recognise the Taliban government, froze funding to the country. The UN says Afghans have been in “survival mode” for the past year, with millions facing malnutrition.
It is also one year (Aug 15) since the US troops left the Afghanistan and Taliban took over the reins of the country. No country so far so has recognised their government. There is speculation of pre-conditions for reorganization even though 14 diplomatic missions are functioning in Kabul.

However, humanitarian support by most countries, international organisations and NGOs continues but they are not able to cope with the needs of the people of Afghanistan.

The Afghan population continues to suffer in absence of jobs, food security and human rights violations. Acute malnutrition and hunger among civilians, mostly children and women linger on. Reports and eyewitness accounts suggest that food and basic supplies are available in markets throughout the country but residents do not have purchasing power.

Human Rights Watch quoting an Afghan humanitarian official said, “People have nothing to eat. You may not imagine it, but children are starving…The situation is dire, especially if you go to the villages.” He said he knew of one family who had lost two children, ages 5 and 2, to starvation in the last two months:

Inflation further worsens the situation
Prices for staples such as rice and wheat have almost doubled in the last three months. At the same time, prices for agricultural needs like fertilizers have doubled. Analysts say Afghanistan’s own domestic food production is set to decrease in 2022 as they have not been able to take care of their fields in absence of fertilizers, or any government or private support. It makes the situation worse as Afghanistan’s inflation and the cost is increasing by around 50 per cent for basic household items since July 2021.

The impact on women and girls is severe.
The UN warns the world must not forget the plight of the country’s women and girls. Most girls’ secondary schools closed and the Taliban tightly restricted which jobs women can do. . Regulations on clothing and laws forbidding access to public areas without a male guardian have been enforced.

Sheikh Haqqani, a cleric killed on August 11 was in favour of education for women, He said, “All the religious books have stated female education is permissible and obligatory, because, for example, if a woman gets sick, in an Islamic environment like Afghanistan or Pakistan, and needs treatment, it’s much better if she’s treated by a female doctor.”

Sheikh Haqqani had previously survived two assassination attempts, most recently in 2020 when IS claimed responsibility for an explosion at a religious school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar that killed at least seven people.
The restrictions on women’s basic rights to freedom of movement and work have made it difficult “even for educated women who used to be financially independent and fall particularly hard on widows. Pregnant women are badly affected by the situation because of limited access to health care. The authorities have imposed strict restrictions on women and girls that violate their rights to education, work, health care, and freedom of movement and speech. Recently, the Taliban ordered that all women must cover their faces in public and should only leave their homes in cases of necessity.

It is estimated that current restrictions on women’s employment have resulted in up to $1 billion in immediate economic losses or up to five per cent of the country’s economic output.

Media hackled
Taliban authorities have also suppressed media and arbitrarily detained several media persons. Local reporters are under tremendous pressure. Reporter San Frontier (RSF) a media watch organisation reported that a total of 231 media outlets were reported closed and more than 6,400 journalists have lost their job since 15 August 2021. Women journalists are the hardest hit. A survey conducted by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Afghan National Journalists’ Union (ANJU) revealed that “Working conditions of women journalists under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan” addresses women journalists’ psychological, physical, and digital safety situation and the growing crisis of freedom of expression in the country. The survey found that: ·87% of women journalists have experienced gender discrimination during the Taliban regime ·60% of women journalists have lost their jobs and careers.

One may conclude that a year after Kabul’s takeover, millions of Afghans are faced with a bleaker future. The Taliban have not shown themselves to be any different from who they were while first ruling Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001 when western forces dislodged them from power and installed a local government.
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Surinder Singh Oberoi
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