HERAT -- More than 2,000 local residents gathered in Herat city on Tuesday (September 1) to commend the efforts of Afghan forces in ensuring security during Ashura rituals and preventing planned attacks by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).
More than 2,000 personnel from the National Army, the National Directorate of Security and the National Police were deployed to maintain security in Herat city, said authorities in Herat.
Ashura rituals, held throughout Afghanistan on August 30, were organised at eight locations in Herat city.
Herat residents provided support to security forces by standing with them on the day of Ashura, Maisam Hussaini, a local resident, said at a gathering held at the Abu Fazel mosque.
Residents of Herat were prepared to help deter any terrorist attack during Ashura, he said.
"We were ready to bear arms, and we stood beside the security forces to defend our country against terrorists," he added. "Terrorist groups have always failed in Afghanistan -- they will never succeed."
Security forces created an opportunity for Ashura to take place as they increased vigilance day and night ahead of the rituals, which was a great achievement for security forces and the Afghan people, said Muhammad Ewaz Wahedi, a civil society activist in Herat city.
"The Afghan people are proud of their security forces, and they are always beside them," he said. "They won't allow terrorist groups to defeat the brave and heroic soldiers."
"Everyone helped the security forces ensure security for Ashura rituals," he added. "Public support of the security forces sends a clear message to terrorists and reveals that Afghans hate terrorists and their supporters."
Despite constant threats by ISIS, which has targeted Shia Muslims in the past, no terrorist attack occurred in Afghanistan during the rituals.
Terrorists planned about 30 attacks on Ashura rituals in Herat Province, and while terrorist groups made every effort to disrupt these religious ceremonies, they were defeated, Herat Governor Sayed Wahid Qatali said at the Abu Fazel mosque gathering.
"Despite all these security threats, security forces were able to prevent terrorist attacks and massacres, which is a large defeat for ISIS and other terrorist groups," he added.
He called on security personnel "to annihilate these puppets before they kill innocent people".
"Don't show mercy to these criminals and murderers, so that the public can live in security and peace," he said.
"Terrorist groups several times threatened to disrupt the Ashura rituals and kill the participants of these religious activities, but the security forces prevented every attack of these terrorists with the public's help," said Herat Police Chief Col. Obaidullah Noorzai.
"The security forces detected and neutralised four bombs that were placed near the locations of Ashura ceremonies in Herat city," he added. "Eight individuals were arrested by the security forces on charges of [attempted] attacks."
Noorzai provided no details on whether the individuals arrested are linked with ISIS or other terrorist groups, but he said police are investigating.
Defeat for ISIS
Security forces co-ordinated their operations a few days in advance of Ashura to ensure security for the rituals and prevent terrorists from attacking, said Col. Ghulam Farooq Baigi, commander of Infantry Brigade No. 1 of the Afghan National Army's 207th Zafar Corps.
"We had received reports that terrorists had plans to attack Ashura rituals at a few locations in Herat city, but the security forces foiled the plans of ISIS before it was able to launch any attack," he said.
The security forces have become stronger and better equipped, and securing the Ashura rituals was an example of their capabilities, he added.
The Afghan people showed on the day of Ashura that they are united, and they will never allow terrorist to divide them, said Sirous Alaaf, an economic adviser to the President's Office.
For Alaaf, the security successes on the day of Ashura signified a major defeat for ISIS.
"ISIS will never be able to repeat the atrocities that it committed in Iraq and Syria in Afghanistan," he said.
"When outsiders try to interfere in their country's internal matters, Afghans join forces with each other to defeat them."
"The security forces have improved their capabilities, and civilians should rest assured that their forces are able to defend their country and people, and the terrorist groups will never succeed in turning Afghanistan into their safe haven and threaten security around the world," he added.