Local media in Afghanistan say 55 people were killed in an ISIS-led suicide bombing that targeted a mosque in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz on Friday.
“This afternoon, an explosion took place in a mosque of our Shiite compatriots in the Khan Abad district of Bandar, the capital of Kunduz province, as a result of which a number of our compatriots were martyred and wounded,” Taliban chief spokesman Zabihullah Muhajid said.
Residents in Kunduz — the capital of a province of the same name — told AFP the blast hit a Shiite mosque during Friday prayers, the most important prayers of the week.
The Islamic State group, who consider the Taliban their enemy, routinely target Shiites in order to further fracture a Sunni-majority Afghanistan.
The Islamic State made a statement through its Telegram channels, saying that one of their suicide bombers “detonated an explosive vest amid a crowd” of Shiites who were gathered in worship inside the mosque.
Matiullah Rohani, the Taliban’s director of culture and information in Kunduz, confirmed to the local press that the attack was a suicide bombing that killed 55 people and injured over a hundred.
Graphic images shared on social media, which could not immediately be verified, showed several bloodied corpses lying on the floor. Another video showed men shepherding people, including women and children, away from the scene.
A massive blast in a Shia Mosque in Kunduz, Afghanistan.
— Adiva Khan (@AdivaKhan7) October 8, 2021
VIDEO: A very powerful suicide attack took place inside a mosque in Kunduz province of Afghanistan during friday pray.
— Natiq Malikzada (@natiqmalikzada) October 8, 2021
The United States announced on August 31 that it had completed its withdrawal of U.S. service members from Afghanistan. The U.S. had set the date as the deadline for their withdrawal from the Middle Eastern country, ending an occupation that had lasted for 20 years.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said that the U.S. was entering a new phase of “engagement” with Afghanistan.
“A new chapter of America’s engagement with Afghanistan has begun. It’s one in which we will lead with our diplomacy. The military mission is over. A new diplomatic mission has begun.”
The Taliban in charge of Afghanistan
The Taliban took over the country just prior to the US’ withdrawal. Formed in 1994, the Taliban were made up of former Afghan resistance fighters, known collectively as mujahedeen, who fought the invading Soviet forces in the 1980s. They aimed to impose their interpretation of Islamic law on the country — and remove any foreign influence.
After the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996, the Sunni Islamist organization put in place strict rules. Women had to wear head-to-toe coverings, weren’t allowed to study or work and were forbidden from traveling alone. TV, music and non-Islamic holidays were also banned.
That changed after September 11, 2001, when 19 men hijacked four commercial planes in the US, crashing two into the World Trade Center towers, one into the Pentagon, and another, destined for Washington, into a field in Pennsylvania. More than 2,700 people were killed in the attacks.
The attack was orchestrated by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who operated from inside of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Less than a month after the attack, US and allied forces invaded Afghanistan, aiming to stop the Taliban from providing a safe-haven to al Qaeda — and to stop al Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a base of operations for terrorist activities.
In the two decades since they were ousted from power, the Taliban have been waging an insurgency against the allied forces and the US-backed Afghan government.