Badakhshan Police Chief killed in a VBIED attack in Fayzabad
Recent pledges to the new Islamic State Caliph featured multiple groups in Badakhshan, suggesting it may be an increased area of operations for ISKP.
27 Dec 2022
On December 26, 2022, the Taliban’s Badakhshan Police Chief, Mawlawi Abdul Haq (alias Abu Omar), was killed in an ISKP-claimed explosion in the Badakhshan provincial capital of Fayzabad. The death was confirmed by Taliban social media accounts, which shared images of the funeral prayer attended by the Chief of Staff of the IEA Armed Forces and the Badakhshan governor.
Geolocation and analysis
Early reports of the explosion were accompanied by footage and images showing a fire in a residential area. The image was used to geolocate the incident and confirm the explosion occurred in Fayzabad, Badakhshan province.
The explosion was claimed via a statement shared by an ISKP-linked Telegram channel on the same day. Amaq news – linked to Islamic State central – later shared a statement and a [WARNING: GRAPHIC] video showing the moment of the explosion. The attack was filmed from a vehicle driving away from the VBIED, which explodes several seconds later as Mawlawi Abdul Haq and six other men walk past the vehicle.
The statement claimed, “A prominent commander in the Taliban militia police was killed along with a number of his companions and others were wounded in an elaborate bombing by Islamic State fighters in the "Badakhshan" region in northern Afghanistan. Security sources told Amaq Agency, "Islamic State fighters closely monitored the movements of the Taliban police chief" in Badakhshan province, as he frequented back and forth between his home and workplace in Faizabad, the capital of the region. The sources added that the fighters parked a car bomb and detonated it today, Monday, on the aforementioned leader while he was on his way to his office located about 200 metres from his house, killing him along with a number of his guards and injuring others.”
Seven men are seen walking next to the vehicle before the device is detonated. The explosion likely killed or severely injured all seven Taliban members. The proximity of the vehicle filming the incident indicates a well-planned attack and shows that ISKP fighters were waiting for Mawlawi Abdul Haq and knew his whereabouts. Given the precise timing required and the proximity of ISKP personnel to the event as filmers, it is likely the device was remotely detonated.
According to the spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, Abdul Nafi Takour, four people were arrested in connection to the explosion. However, this could not be independently verified.
Mawlawi Abdul Haq, a Tajik originally from the Khash district of Badakhshan, ran a Madrassa in the Baharak district before joining the Taliban. He previously served as a spokesperson for mines and commander of the Taliban border forces before August 2021 and was one of the group’s top commanders in Badakhshan.
The high-profile killing of Mawlawi Abdul Haq indicates the presence of reasonably well-trained or experienced ISKP fighters in Badakhshan province. The attack is consistent with the AW analysis and expert commentary on ISKP pledges to the new Islamic State Caliph, which noted that ISKP cells in Badakhshan province were overrepresented in the videos and photos of groups.
The pledges from Badakhshan were significant as ISKP has not been active in the province since April 24, 2022, when the group claimed an IED explosion against a Taliban vehicle in Faizabad, which killed the provincial Director for Mines, Mawlawi Fateh.
Following reports of the explosion in Badakhshan on December 26, 2022, the spokesman of the National Resistance Force (NRF), Sibghatullah Ahmadi, tweeted, “Due to increasing internal differences between the Taliban, Mawlawi Abdul Haq, the Taliban's police chief for Badakhshan, was killed moments ago in an explosion near the entrance gate of the police headquarters in Fayzabad city”.
While there is clearly a benefit to the NRF in framing the killing as inter-Taliban rivalry and sowing division, the ISKP claim appears to contradict the claim.