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Taliban pledge to step up security at Shia mosques

16-10-2021

By SJA Jafri + Bureau Report + Agencies

KABUL/ ISLAMABAD: Taliban authorities pledged to step up security at Shia mosques after the second Daesh attack in a week on worshippers killed more than 40 people in the Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday.

Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack on the Fatima mosque in Kandahar which saw a group of suicide bombers shoot their way into the mosque before blowing themselves up among the worshippers.

A health official said the casualty toll from the attack stood at 41 dead and 70 wounded but the toll could still rise further. “Some of the wounded are in a critical condition and we are trying to transfer them to Kabul,” he said.

Earlier, Taliban authorities pledged to step up security at Shia mosques after the second Daesh attack in a week on worshippers killed more than 40 people in the Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday.

Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack on the Fatima mosque in Kandahar which saw a group of suicide bombers shoot their way into the mosque before blowing themselves up among the worshippers.

A health official said the casualty toll from the attack stood at 41 dead and 70 wounded but the toll could still rise further. “Some of the wounded are in a critical condition and we are trying to transfer them to Kabul,” he said.

The Taliban on Friday issued directives regarding the execution of criminals in public and said that the act should not be carried out unless ordered by the country’s top court.

Taking to Twitter, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid announced the decision of the Council of Ministers of the Islamic Emirate and wrote that punishing criminals publically should be avoided if the country’s top court has not issued such an order.

He added that if someone is publically executed, then the authorities concerned must provide an explanation to the public regarding the crime committed by the individual in question.

Last month, the Taliban’s former head of religious police, Mullah Nooruddin Turabi who has now been given the charge of prisons had said that the harsh punishments for crimes, including executions and amputations, will be carried out under the new government, adding that such actions would be “necessary for security,” the BBC had reported.

“No one will tell us what our laws should be,” the outlet had quoted Turabi as saying.

Meanwhile, the Taliban will announce a framework that allows girls to attend school in Afghanistan “soon,” a senior United Nations official said, after four weeks in which Afghan boys have been allowed a secondary education but girls have not.

“The de facto minister of education told us that they are working on a framework, which they will announce soon, that will allow all girls to go to secondary school, and we are expecting that to happen very soon,” UNICEF deputy executive director Omar Abdi said at the United Nations in New York on Friday.

For weeks now the Taliban have been saying that they will allow girls to return to school as soon as possible.

The Taliban permitted girls to attend primary school from the start, but have maintained that neither the girls nor their female teachers could return to secondary school yet.

Taliban officials have said that can happen only once the girls’ security and strict gender segregation can be ensured under the group’s restrictive interpretation of sharia law, adding that more time is needed to put this framework in place.

Abdi noted that, as he spoke, “Millions of girls of secondary school age are missing out on education for the 27th consecutive day.”

He said the UN has urged the Taliban authorities now governing Afghanistan “not to wait” on educating girls.

Abdi said he had visited Afghanistan the week before and met with Taliban authorities.

“In all my meetings, the education of girls was the first issue that I raised.”

He said he had received “affirmations” of the Taliban’s commitments to allow all girls to attend school.

As for secondary school, he said they were allowed “only in five provinces,” but added that the UN is pushing for the right to be implemented throughout the country.

A 14-year-old girl identified as Asma this week expressed both her frustration with the situation and her determination to pursue an education.

“Will I be able to go to school or not? This is my biggest concern. I want to learn everything, from the easiest to the hardest subjects. I want to be an astronaut or an engineer or architect… This is my dream,” she told Amnesty International.

“Education is not a crime,” she added. “If the Taliban announce that getting an education is a crime, then we will commit this crime. We will not give up.”

The group, known for its oppressive rule from 1996 to 2001, has faced international fury after effectively excluding women and girls from schools and work across the country, while incrementally stripping away Afghans’ freedoms.

Once again, the Afghanistan’s Shia minority buried their dead for the second Saturday in a row after another suicide bomb attack on a mosque claimed by the Daesh.

Religious authorities in the southern city of Kandahar told AFP the toll from Friday’s assault had reached 60, as hundreds of diggers opened row after row of graves in the dusty soil.

The latest massacre came just a week after another Daesh-claimed attack on Shia worshippers at a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz that killed more than 60 people.

In a statement released on its Telegram channels, the Daesh said two Daesh-Khorasan suicide bombers carried out separate attacks on different parts of the mosque in Kandahar, the spiritual heartland of the Taliban while worshippers prayed inside.

The group, bitter rivals of fellow Sunni Islamist movement the Taliban, who swept back to power in Afghanistan in August as the United States and its allies withdrew, regards Shia Muslims as heretics.

UK-based conflict analysis firm ExTrac said Friday’s assault was the first by Daesh-K in Kandahar, and the fourth mass casualty massacre since the Taliban took Kabul.

Researcher Abdul Sayed told media the attack “challenged the Taliban claims of holding control on the country. If the Taliban can’t protect Kandahar from a Daesh-K attack, how could it protect the rest of the country?”

The killings triggered international condemnation. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the “despicable attack” and demanded those using violence to restrict Afghans’ religious freedom be brought to justice.

At the gravesides, mourner Gul Ahmad told media of his grief over his brother’s slaying: “He had two little children. He had a home to live in. He had everything. The pain of the loss cannot be described with words.”

The all-male crowd brought body after body, shrouded in white sheets, as a dust storm was whipped up by the constant digging.

“The world will remember this. The Islamic world will remember this barbarism, specifically the dignified people of Afghanistan,” warned another mourner, Muhammad Agha.

Inside the mosque, after the blast, the walls were pockmarked by shrapnel and volunteers swept up debris in the ornately painted prayer hall. Rubble lay in an entrance corridor.

In the wake of the explosions, Kandahar police chief Maulvi Mehmood said security for the mosque had been provided by guards from the Shia community but that following the “brutal attack” the Taliban would take charge of its protection.

Many worshippers

Witnesses spoke of gunfire alongside the explosions, and a security guard assigned to protect the mosque said three of his comrades had been shot as the bombers fought their way in.

Sayed Rohullah told AFP: “It was the Friday prayer time, and when we were preparing I heard shots. Two people had entered the mosque.

“They had opened fire on the guards and in response the guards had also opened fire on them. One of them committed a suicide blast inside the mosque.”

Other bombs were detonated in crowded areas outside the main building, he and other witnesses said.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington condemned the attack and reiterated a call for the “Taliban to live up to the commitment it has made to counterterrorism, and specifically to taking on the shared threat we face from (Daesh)-K”.

“We are determined to see to it that no group…can ever again use Afghan soil as a launching pad for attacks on the United States or other countries.”

The Taliban have vowed to stabilize the country and in the wake of the Kunduz attack promised to protect the Shia minority now living under its rule.

Shias are estimated to make up roughly 10% of the Afghan population. Many of them are Hazara, an ethnic group that has been persecuted in Afghanistan for decades.

In October 2017, a Daesh suicide attacker struck a Shia mosque in the west of Kabul, killing 56 people and wounding 55.

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