“Enemies are trying to target the people and create a divide, but they will not succeed in their nefarious designs,” Zadran said. “We accept it as a religious and national duty to defeat these elements.”
Unconfirmed reports said the blast targeted a meeting between Taliban security officials and local Shia elders, who had been summoned to deal with the escalating violence, and that two participants were killed.
Despite efforts by Taliban officials to allay public fears, Saturday night’s deadly explosion dampened the community’s hopes of effective action to keep them safe. He has also stepped up domestic and international pressure on Afghanistan’s new religious leaders, who are Sunni Muslims, to fulfill their pledge to protect all Afghan citizens after they took power last August.
After the attack on a Kabul school, Afghans fear a return to violence
The bombing, which has not been claimed by any group, follows two terror attacks in the past four days that have been claimed by an offshoot of the Islamic State, a Sunni extremist militant group that carried out dozens of bombings and shootings in the Shiite-dominated region. West Kabul region in recent years. The group is known as Islamic State-Khorasan or ISIS-K.
On Wednesday, a group of Islamic State commandos invaded a high-rise apartment building in the Karte Sakhi neighborhood and began shooting at a Taliban security team probing the area. After a 7-hour firefight, during which some families were reportedly taken hostage and then released unharmed, Taliban officials announced they had killed four terrorists and captured one.
On Friday, a bomb placed in a roadside cart exploded in a busy market near a mosque in another western Kabul neighborhood known as Sar-e-Karez. Officials said at least eight people were killed and 18 others injured. According to reports, women and children were gathering at the mosque when the bomb exploded.
After the back-to-back incidents, residents demanded better protection for the community until the final culminating days of Muharram this week, known as Ashura. On Friday, police officials said they were creating a special commission to ensure full security during Ashura. In a statement, Zadran asked “our Shia compatriots” to limit their activities to special tent mourning sites and “not to disturb others”.
During Ashura, religious emotions run high as people mourn the death of Imam Hussain, a revered Shia figure who was killed in the 7th century. With dirges blaring from loudspeakers, hundreds of men and boys march or form circles where they flog their backs with knives and chains.
In a statement released Saturday ahead of the third attack, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan condemned Friday’s bombing and said the Taliban government “must prevent such indiscriminate attacks” and launch a “thorough and transparent investigation”.
The location of the bombing was steeped in historical irony. The fire blast blasted through a block of Mazari Circle, a roundabout with archways and a stone plaque honoring Ali Abdul Mazari, an indomitable Shia militia leader who led a fierce fight against Taliban forces during years before being captured by their forces and imprisoned, where he died in 1996.
Taliban deny knowledge of al-Qaeda presence after Zawahiri’s death in Kabul
In March 2020, at least 27 people were killed and 29 injured in a bomb attack after an official ceremony in the Shia community to mark the anniversary of Mazari’s death. There were initial reports that the Taliban – at that time a guerrilla force fighting a civilian government – carried out the attack, but it was later claimed by ISIS-K.
After the Taliban returned to power last year, one of their first official actions was to blow up a statue of Mazari in northern Bamian province, a historical region in the north that is the homeland of Afghan Shia and hazara. Now Taliban officials have vowed to protect Mazari supporters from another enemy outside Afghanistan.
Photos of the explosion on Saturday showed people running under posters of Mazari with an explosion of fiery flames behind them. They also showed people strolling further up the street, among damaged kiosks covered in religious banners and other paraphernalia for Muharram.