On August 3, the Islamic State (IS) bombed a Shi’a mosque named Khawaja Hassan in Gardez, Afghanistan. The attack killed over 39 people and injured at least 80, according to Reuters News Agency. The attackers targeted the mosque while people were praying on Friday, a holy day for Muslims across different sectors. Men entered the mosque armed with guns and shot many people. They then moved to explosives, said Abdullah Asrat, the spokesman for the Paktia province – where Gardez is located, according to the BBC. The Paktia police chief mentioned more specifics, stating that two “burka-wearing” militants attacked the mosque, which had more than 100 people at the time, according to Reuters News Agency.
While ISIS has not declared the reason behind the bombing, the experts have said it fits the recent pattern of targeting Shi’a mosques to incite fear and chaos as the incoming peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban approach, Reuters reports. The news agency also mentioned that ISIS has been targeting security facilities and areas with a high percentage of civilians. BBC reports that IS committed an attack in a refugee office located in Jalalabad, a city close to Gardez, last Tuesday. The attack killed at least 15 people while many others died as a result of another suicide bombing at the western part of the country, in the province of Farah.
The string of attacks showcases the increasing instability of the country and the inability of its government to enforce standard security measures. The same day as the previous attacks, an additional 22 people got kidnapped by unidentified militants, on a highway linking Kabul to Gardez. The attacks have become almost normal to hear and the Afghan government continues to release similar statements. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani continues to condemn the attacks, as usual, this time stating that it is “inhumane,” repeating that “Afghans will not be divided by sectarian violence,” according to Al-Jazeera. However, not much has been done in the last months that would improve security. BBC reported that almost 1,700 civilians have died as a result of a terrorist attack in the first half of 2018 only. The UN, on its part, confirmed that the significant number is the highest ever to be recorded since 2009 when the initial process of recording began. This is especially concerning since the government’s latest actions have been restricted to planning the April 2019 election. The Afghan government says it will hold presidential elections on April 20, 2019. The issue might lead to further attacks on civilians and news source also reported that officials have “warned much work needs to happen to meet that timeline.”
Statistics on Al-Jazeera’s website showcase that the attacks are becoming very frequent, with the last attack prior to this one being only two days ago. Shi’a is one of the most recent minorities to be fully and directly attacked by ISIS. There is no reliable census information on the community in Afghanistan or its size, but according to Reuters, it is most likely around 10-15 percent. The statistics also take into consideration including Hazara ethnic group’s “Persian-speaking members of the Persian-speaking and some Tajiks.”
Perhaps what is the most concerning aspect of the recent surge in terrorist attacks is the constant normalization of the violence. Afghans are worried about the death of their loved ones at every corner, and at the same time, the international community has become used to their tears and pains. There is a crucial responsibility that falls on the Afghan government, but the international community is also to blame. The country, completely devastated by proxy wars and a recent U.S. invasion will not realistically reach peace on its own.
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