ISIS attacks worry residents of Afghanistan's northern provinces

By Muhammad Qasem

A wounded Afghan man receives treatment at a hospital after he was injured in a bomb blast at the Shia Seh Dokan Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif on April 21. [AFP]

A wounded Afghan man receives treatment at a hospital after he was injured in a bomb blast at the Shia Seh Dokan Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif on April 21. [AFP]

KUNDUZ -- Residents of Balkh, Kunduz, Takhar and Badakhshan provinces are raising concerns about increasing "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) attacks along Afghanistan's borders with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

ISIS's local Khorasan branch (ISIS-K) has perpetrated a number of deadly attacks over the past nine months across the country, killing and injuring dozens of people.

In recent months, ISIS-K has claimed responsibility for bombs targeting mosques, schools and minibuses, as well as rocket attacks aimed at Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

In the most recent claim, ISIS said on Telegram on May 7 that it had fired seven missiles at a Tajik military base across the border from Khwaja Ghar, Takhar province.

Taking advantage of the recent power vacuum in Afghanistan, ISIS-K has increased its movement across the country, said Rabiullah Muhtashem, a civil society activist in Kunduz.

"The recent events in Kabul, Balkh, Nangarhar and other parts of the country indicate a new wave of violence in Afghanistan," he said.

"The current government must stop this."

"Our information shows that masked men are present in parts of Kunduz province," he said.

"ISIS is actively recruiting in the country's northern provinces," he added. "If they are not stopped, they will become a major problem."

ISIS shows no mercy

"This time, ISIS is unfortunately thirsty for our blood," said Mohammad Rahim Rahimi, a resident of Kunduz province. "They have mercy for no one."

"With the passing of every day, ISIS is trying to strengthen its ranks in Afghanistan," he said. "Unfortunately, there is no plan to stop the activities of this group in the country."

The international community should not underestimate ISIS's threat in Afghanistan and should stop the expansion of its activities through joint regional and international efforts, Rahimi said.

The terror group's attacks have drawn widespread condemnation from Afghans.

Hundreds of residents of Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, gathered April 22 to mourn a day after a bombing at the Shia Seh Dokan mosque in the city killed 12 people.

ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mourners condemned the bombing and expressed concern about continuing ISIS attacks.

Killing innocent people, especially during the holy month of Ramadan, is a crime against humanity, said Sayed Qurban Rezae, a resident of Mazar-e-Sharif.

Any group that perpetrates the mass murder of Muslims is not aware of the teachings of Islam, he added.

"The latest attacks by this bloodthirsty group have left hundreds of families grieving the loss of their loved ones," Rezae said. "They have orphaned children, widowed women and taken kids from their parents."

Each family has witnessed the death or injury of two or three members, he said.

"The perpetrators of these crimes will burn in hell."

ISIS is the enemy of all Afghans, said Qambar Ali Hussaini, a relative of one of the victims of the bombing.

The Shia Hazara community, which makes up 10-20% of Afghanistan's 38 million people, has long been the target of terrorist acts -- most carried out by ISIS.

"ISIS does not spare anyone. The group enjoys spilling people's blood, he said.

"ISIS's objective is the destruction and killing of Afghans, as it does not want Afghans to live in peace and prosperity," he said.

Afghans must mobilise and be ready to rise against this terrorist group, he said. Otherwise, all ethnic groups in the country will face a slow death in Afghanistan.

Growing threats

ISIS-K has expanded its operations across the country and is now threatening the stability of other countries in the region as well, said Azizullah Ayoubi, a military analyst in Badakhshan province.

"ISIS has been taking advantage of the dire situation of Afghans and has been encouraging them to join its ranks."

"The increasing unemployment and poverty in the country has been an achievement for ISIS, as it recruits the youth and pays them monthly salaries," he said.

Fatima Sekandari, a civil society activist in Takhar province, said unless a force well-equipped to defeat ISIS is established in Afghanistan, the group will continue capturing more territory.

"Establishing a well-equipped force in the country to defeat ISIS is critical," she said. "Otherwise, this terrorist group will kill innocent people daily."

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ISIL is a growing concern for every Afghan, and we fear that one day ISIS, like the Taliban, will occupy Kabul and establish their own government, and the world will cooperate with them under one name or another. As the Taliban were considered as terrorists 20 years ago, but today the government of a country are entrusted to them and the western diplomats meet with them every day in Kabul. A day will come as the diplomats of these countries will follow the same route with the leaders of ISIS. May we not see that day, but due to the animosity and ignorance of the Taliban, who refrain from any interaction with the international community, and inside of the country, by imposing restrictions and interfering in the personal affairs of the people, they have exhausted the patience of the people and thus the repetition of the same scenario doesn’t seem impossible.


I would like to make one more point about the figures that you use in your report. In your reports, I have seen you several times saying that the number of Hazaras is 10 to 20%, while according to the official figures, this is not true. Hazaras do not have a majority in any province of the country, even in Bamyan more than half of its districts belong to Pashtuns and Tajiks. Yes, it is said about the number of shias, who make up about 20% of the country's population, but it should be noted that not all Hazaras are Shias and not all Shias are Hazaras.


This is only the beginning of a terrible process. The people of the northern provinces and the people of Afghanistan as a whole must expect more violence. I agree with the opinion of the analysts that the ambiguous situation and the security vacuum have led to ISIS recruiting more rapidly and helped them to carry out heavy and deadly attacks across the country. Due to the stupidity of the Taliban, it is not possible for the Taliban government to gain international recognition, and this has made me more concerned, because without the recognition of the Afghan government by the world, especially the western countries, there is no possibility to build a strong army in Afghanistan. Also, I don’t think that there would be a common ground between the Taliban and the world in the fight against ISIS. So we should wait for the horrors and killings once again.


I am surprised by your dirty policy. It has been many years since Pakistan launched rocket strikes at Kunar, Paktia, and Nangarhar provinces. And it has been many years since most Pashtun-populated areas have been set ablaze by the flames of war.; However, you didn't even make any news about Pashtun-populated areas the same way you do for Hazaras. You, the media, are responsible for creating differences among the ethnic groups in Afghanistan.


That is surprising! Where did the Hazaras become 20%? If the Hazaras are 20%, how many percent are the Tajiks? How many percent are the Uzbeks? How many percent are the Pashtuns shown as 70% in the previous census? Do not write illogically. Thanks.