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ISKP claim attacks on minority neighbourhoods, as well as Taliban

The Taliban has previously stated that the ISKP is no longer a serious threat in the country, though attacks throughout November and December suggest otherwise.


14 Dec 2021

Afghan Witness’s (AW) open-source intelligence (OSINT) team has geolocated a series of explosions and bombings targeting apparent civilians and Taliban vehicles in November and December.

AW data analysis indicates that the majority of incidents took place in the predominantly Hazara and Shia neighbourhoods of Kabul, where religious and ethnic minority groups continue to be targeted by the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP).

Though the Taliban Spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, has stated in an interview with Anadolu Agency that the ISKP is no longer a serious threat in Afghanistan, recent attacks suggest that the group are active and continuing their campaign in Kabul, targeting both apparent civilians - most notably minority groups - as well as the Taliban.

AW has verified some of the attacks which took place in November and December via footage and images collected from social media, which were analysed using OSINT techniques.

The following is a collection of AW’s verifications:

Bombings in November

13 November 2021: an explosion in a mini-van in Dasht-e Barchi - a Shia majority neighbourhood in western Kabul - reportedly killed one civilian and injured two others, according to Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s spokesperson.

The following day, ISKP claimed responsibility for the incident and said they had detonated two sticky explosives inside two buses. AW were able to confirm that at least one mini-van exploded near a bus station in the Dasht-e Barchi area, Police District (PD) 13.

In their statement on Telegram, ISKP’s mention of ‘polytheistic Rafidah’ indicates Shia Muslims were the intended target. ‘Polytheistic’, meaning belief in multiple deities, and ‘Rafida’, literally translated meaning ‘rejectors’, is a pejorative term referring to Shia Muslims.

Posts by Aamaj News and others quickly identified a number of victims, including Hamid Saighani, a former editor of Ariana News. However, these claims appeared to be denied by Ariana News, who said only that Saighani had ‘mysteriously’ died in Kabul at 3pm on Monday.

The explosion came a day after at least three people were killed and 15 wounded by a bomb detonated in a Nangarhar mosque.

15 November 2021: A roadside bomb exploded in Kot-e Sangi in west Kabul, PD 5, next to Ariana Wedding Hall - an area mainly populated with Tajiks and Hazaras. The explosion appeared to injure two men, according to AW-geolocated footage.

ISKP claimed responsibility for this incident and stated that their initial target was a Taliban vehicle.

17 November 2021: An [graphic] explosion took place in the Dasht-e Barchi area, a Shia-majority neighbourhood in the west of Kabul.

AW geolocated the incident based on images and footage from social media, and confirmed one minivan exploded near the Hazara Centre causing at least three casualties.

Simultaneously, another explosion took place in the Dehbori area of Kabul, in PD 3, near Kabul University, which is located in a Hazara and Tajik-majority neighbourhood.

The attacks appear to be MIED or IED explosives attached to vans or placed on the sides of the roads.

ISKP claimed responsibility for the attacks on Telegram, mentioning “two sticky explosives inside two buses of the polytheistic Rafidah”. As with the attack on the 13th November, ISKP’s use of the phrase ‘polytheistic Rafidah’ suggests these attacks were again specifically targeting Shia muslims.

The four explosions up to this date occurred within a relatively small area in west Kabul, where predominantly Shia muslims and Hazaras reside:

Figure 1: Map of the recent ISKP bombings in west Kabul.

23 November 2021: An explosion occurred in Quwai Markaz, PD 2 of Kabul. In a statement to Aamaj News, Kabul police spokesman General Mobin claimed a Taliban ranger was targeted by an MIED in the Mojahedin Bazaar area of Kabul's second district. According to the statement, two Taliban security personnel were injured in the blast.

AW geolocated the incident based on images and footage from social media and verified that one Taliban-operated vehicle had exploded near the Kandahar market resulting in at least two casualties.

ISKP claimed responsibility for this attack on their Telegram channels, stating they had targeted the Taliban.

25 November 2021: An explosion reportedly struck a civilian vehicle in Karte Parwan, Kabul. AW was able to geolocate the footage to a major roundabout on a road situated on the edge of PD 2 and PD 4.

The spokesperson for the Taliban's Ministry of Interior, Qari Saeed Khosty, confirmed to Bakhtar News Agency that the explosion had targeted a civilian car. According to Khosty, the incident did not cause any casualties.

Contrary to the statement by Khosty, ISKP claimed it targeted a Taliban vehicle in their official statement posted on Telegram.

Figure 2: Overview of the recent ISKP attacks in Kabul. Indicated in red are claimed civilian targets. Indicated in black are claimed Taliban targets.

30 November 2021: An explosion occurred on Darul Aman road on the border between PD 3 and 7. AW investigators geolocated the incident based on images and footage from social media, and confirmed one Taliban-operated vehicle was targeted near the Habibia High School.

In a statement, the Taliban's Interior Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khosty said that the explosion had not caused any casualties. However, according to Emergency NGO, at least five people were taken to hospital due to the incident.

Once again, ISKP claimed responsibility for this explosion on their Telegram channels.

Unlike the attacks that occurred up to the 17th November 2021, in which ISKP primarily targeted civilian vehicles in the Hazara, Shia and Tajik neighbourhoods of Kabul, in the last two weeks of November, attacks targeted Taliban vehicles in areas closer to the city centre.

Bombings in December

2nd December 2021: An IED explosion took place near the Salim Karwan intersection - between PD 4 and 10 - with gunfire also reported at the scene.

According to Emergency NGO, four people, including a young person, were injured in this incident.

The Taliban commander of the Kabul police, General Mobin, confirmed to the daily Ettelaat-e-Rooz that the blast took place at the Salim Karwan intersection in Kabul, adding that the incident was caused by a roadside bomb.

Later that same day, ISKP posted a message on Telegram claiming responsibility for the attack.

4 December 2021: The third explosion of the week was located on Taimani road, between PD 15 and 4, in Kabul. It was the second attack in the area in just two days.

A roadside bomb allegedly targeted the governor of Panjshir, though no casualties were reported. The Taliban Panjshir security chief Abdul Hamid Khorasani confirmed to Aamaj News that the target of the explosion was Rumi Qudratullah, the governor of Panjshir, but that he had not been harmed.

Although ISKP claimed responsibility for the attack, they had not mentioned the governor of Panjshir in their statement on Telegram.

In the meantime, alternative claims appeared on social media stating the National Resistance Front (NRF) was behind the attack. An NRF spokesman told Radio Azadi: "The National Resistance Forces today targeted Molavi Abdul Ali, known for the power of Allah, the governor of Panjshir, in Taimani, but unfortunately his life was saved."

ISKP released a 21-second video clip of the attack a day later, on 5th December, showing the NRF's claim to be untrue. The video, which was posted on the group’s Telegram channels, shows the targeted Taliban vehicle and the explosion. The release of this footage is unique for recent ISKP claims.

8 December 2021: An explosion took place in the Joy-e Sheer area of Kabul. According to the Taliban’s MoI spokesperson, Qari Saeed Khosty, the blast was caused by an IED planted in a pot, but did not cause any casualties.

In contrast, ISKP claimed responsibility for the attack on their Telegram channels and stated that they had targeted the Taliban, resulting in seven casualties.

AW geolocated the incident based on images and footage from social media but did not find any indication of these alleged casualties.

10 December 2021: Two separate explosions were reported in western Kabul. The first explosion occurred in Mosala-e Shahid Mazari in the Dasht-e Barchi area in PD 6, and the second in the Deh Bori area, PD 3.

In both cases, online sources reported that the explosion had been caused by a magnetic mine that was placed under a passenger vehicle.

Mobeen Khan, spokesperson for the Kabul Police, took to social media to state that at least two civilians were killed and three others injured in Dasht-e-Barchi (PD 6).

Qari Saeed Khosty, spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior, stated that there had been three fatalities and two injured in the explosion in PD 6, and one woman wounded during the explosion in PD 3.

According to social media posts, a woman named Latifa Omidi, a Hazara Doctor, lost both her legs in the explosion in Dasht-e Barchi, Kabul. Posts suggested she had recently graduated from Kabul Medical University and had applied for work in a hospital.

On the same day, ISKP claimed the attacks in a Telegram post stating: “By the grace of God Almighty, the soldiers of the Caliphate targeted 3 buses of the infidels of the polytheists separately in (District 13), (District 6) and (District 3) in the city of (Kabul), where they detonated 3 explosive devices on them, which led to the destruction of the buses, killing and wounding dozens of them. Praise and blessings” [translated].

The statement notably confirms minority civilians were specifically targeted in the attacks.

Figure 3: Overview of claimed ISKP attacks in Kabul against civilian targets.

Figure 4: Overview of claimed ISKP attacks in Kabul against Taliban targets.

The plight of the Hazara community

The ISKP has claimed responsibility for many attacks on the Hazara Shia community, including two significant suicide bombings that Human Rights Watch report killed at least 72 people at the Sayed Abad mosque in Kunduz on October 8, and at least 63 people at the Bibi Fatima mosque in Kandahar a week later.

Hazaras make up around 9% of Afghanistan’s population. Most are Shiite Muslims and have long been discriminated against in the Sunni-majority country.

As well as targeting religious and ethnic minorities, ISKP has also targeted former Afghan security forces, Afghan politicians and ministries, other religious minorities such as Sikhs, US and Nato forces, and international aid organisations. In recent years, they have also been known to target girls' schools, hospitals and even a maternity ward, where they reportedly shot dead pregnant women and nurses.

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