Taliban say bomb killed 8 in Kabul’s Shia neighborhood

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ISLAMABAD – A bomb concealed in a cart exploded near a mosque in a Shiite minority neighborhood of the Afghan capital on Friday, killing at least eight people and injuring 18, a Taliban official said.

Also on Friday, hundreds of Afghans – apparently organized by the Taliban – gathered in several provinces, denouncing the US drone strike last Sunday that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri on the balcony of a refuge in Kabul.

According to Khalid Zadran, the Taliban-appointed spokesman for Kabul’s police chief, the buggy attack took place in western Kabul, in the Sar-e Karez region. Initial reports said two people were killed, but the number of casualties quickly increased as the injured were taken to local hospitals.

“Once again the enemy carried out an attack (on holy days) and killed innocent civilians,” Zadran said. He added that the police had opened an investigation.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility, but blame is likely to fall on the Islamic State group, which has targeted Afghanistan’s Shia minority in large-scale attacks in the past.

ISIS’s regional affiliate, known as the Islamic State in Khorasan province, has stepped up attacks on mosques and minorities across the country since the Taliban took power last August.

IS, which has been operating in Afghanistan since 2014, is seen as the biggest security challenge facing the country’s Taliban leadership. Following their takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban launched a massive campaign of repression against IS headquarters in the east of the country.

In a shootout between the Taliban and IS on Wednesday, gunmen killed five people, including two Taliban fighters. The fighting broke out near the Sakhi shrine in the Karti Sakhi neighborhood as people were busy preparing for Ashura, which commemorates the 7th-century death in battle of Imam Hussein, the Prophet’s grandson Mohammed.

At anti-US rallies following Friday prayers, religious scholars and protesters condemned the attack that killed al-Zawahri, calling the attack a violation of international principles and in particular the agreement that the US administration has signed with the Taliban on the withdrawal of US forces. troops from Afghanistan.

Protesters carried banners with “Death to America” ​​slogans and chanted against President Joe Biden.

The Taliban did not say al-Zawahri was killed in the drone attack. In a statement released on Thursday, they insisted they had “no knowledge of the arrival and residence” of the al-Qaeda leader in Kabul.

However, despite the Taliban’s denial of having known of al-Zawahri’s presence, US officials said he was staying at a Kabul safe house linked to the Taliban’s deputy leader. The strike killed al-Zawahri when he stepped out onto the balcony of the safe house.

The strike has further strained relations between the Taliban and the West, especially as Afghan leaders seek an urgent infusion of cash to deal with the catastrophic collapse of the economy that followed the US withdrawal a year ago. a year.

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