Mazar-e-Sharif on alert following back-to-back ISIS attacks

By Salaam Times

Wounded journalists are shifted on a vehicle to a hospital in Mazar-e-Sharif on March 11, after a bomb blast at an event commemorating the media. [Atif Aryan/AFP]

Wounded journalists are shifted on a vehicle to a hospital in Mazar-e-Sharif on March 11, after a bomb blast at an event commemorating the media. [Atif Aryan/AFP]

KABUL -- Mazar-e-Sharif is reeling as two "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) terrorist attacks hit the city in just three days.

ISIS on Sunday (March 12) claimed responsibility for a bombing that killed three people and wounded a group of journalists and children at an event honouring the media Saturday.

Police said a security guard was killed, while several journalists and three children were wounded in the attack on the Tabyan Cultural Centre in Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province.

Journalist Hossein Nadiri and a journalism student named Akmal were killed in the blast, according to the Afghan Independent Journalists' Association (AIJA). Another 14 media workers were injured, it said.

Children sing moments before a bomb blast at an event commemorating the media, at a cultural centre in Mazar-e-Sharif on March 11. [Atif Aryan/AFP]

Children sing moments before a bomb blast at an event commemorating the media, at a cultural centre in Mazar-e-Sharif on March 11. [Atif Aryan/AFP]

The attack was caused by a "parcel bomb that ISIS fighters managed to place and detonate" at the event, according to Amaq, the propaganda agency of ISIS's Khorasan branch (ISIS-K).

"The blast targeted a rally held inside a Shia centre to reward several journalists working in agencies involved in the war and instigation against ISIS," the statement said.

The explosion happened when a group of children were singing an anthem, said Afghan journalist Atif Aryan, who was wounded in the blast.

"I heard a big bang... then there was chaos as everyone was trying to find a way to escape," he told AFP.

"Some journalists are seriously wounded," he added.

Saturday's bombing came just two days after an ISIS suicide bomber killed the governor of Balkh province at his office in Mazar-e-Sharif.

Widespread condemnation

The latest attack targeting Afghan journalists and children drew widespread condemnation and calls for increased security.

"Journalists are the real voice of Afghan people," the AIJA said in a statement. "An attack on the lives of journalists is an attack on freedom of speech and Afghan people."

"Brave Afghan journalists are already reporting in extremely challenging circumstances," said Beh Lih Yi, Asia programme director at the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"Targeting journalists during an event to honour reporters is a despicable and cowardly act."

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also condemned the "despicable attack on journalists", adding, "Afghan reporters show immense courage and must be protected."

"This attack on journalists is another blow to freedom of expression in Afghanistan and increased protection is necessary," said UN Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan Richard Bennett.

"This violence needs to stop," said Raffaella Iodice, the European Union's chargé d’affaires in Afghanistan. "Journalists risk their lives for their work and have to be protected. They are not a target!"

US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Thomas West said he was "deeply saddened by the terrorist attack on journalists at the Tabyan Cultural Centre."

"We condemn these continued, senseless acts of violence," he tweeted. "We believe in the resilience of the Afghan people and their capacity to rebound."

Afghan journalists also expressed alarm at the lack of protection they face in their work.

"If the journalists face threats in addition to several other problems, I think they will stop working," Mustafa Shahryar, a journalist, told TOLOnews.

"This is very concerning," said another journalist, Raqeeb Fayaz, adding that there needs to be "a clear mechanism for journalists' safety".

Increasing ISIS attacks

ISIS attacks have increased across Afghanistan since about a year and a half ago.

According to the SITE Intelligence Group, which follows the activities of terrorist networks, ISIS-K carried out 224 terrorist attacks in Afghanistan between August 2021 and August 2022.

On January 11, an ISIS suicide bomber self-detonated outside the Foreign Ministry in Kabul, killing at least five people and wounding 40 others, according to officials and witnesses.

In December, at least five Chinese nationals were wounded when ISIS gunmen stormed a hotel popular with Chinese businesspeople in Kabul.

Also that month, ISIS took responsibility for an attack on Pakistan's embassy in Kabul that Islamabad denounced as an "assassination attempt" against its ambassador.

On November 30, a blast at a madrassa in Aibak, the provincial capital of Samangan, killed at least 16 people and wounded 24 others. "All of them are children and ordinary people," according to a local physician.

In October, four people were killed and 25 wounded in an attack on a mosque on the grounds of the Interior Ministry in Kabul, with survivors reporting it was a suicide bombing.

ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing outside the Russian mission in Kabul on September 5 that killed two Russian embassy staff members.

The same month, at least 54 people -- including 51 girls and young women -- were killed when a suicide bomber detonated a device at the Kaaj Higher Educational Centre in Kabul.

No group claimed responsibility for that bombing, but Afghan authorities later blamed ISIS.

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Afghans have been killed for several years under a pretext or other, but no main issue has been revealed as who started this war in Afghanistan, and why is this war going on? Is this war fought by the people of Afghanistan? If the people of Afghanistan follow this war, which country in the world does provide the financial budget, which country in the world supports this terrorist group? Why is Afghanistan the center of terrorism? The United States of America spent millions of dollars to destroy this terrorist group, but it could not vanish the group. Is it possible for the current government of Afghanistan to eliminate this terrorist group with its meager resources? A small number of the Afghans for a small amount of money fight this fighting inside Afghanistan, and turn Afghanistan to a battlefield. This war is not ours and we are not fighting. We don't have weapons' factories, we don't have a strong economy to sustain this. This war is the war of foreigners and the ignorance of a small number of Afghan people is being used for money and has made this country a hell for the people of Afghanistan. Don't destroy Afghanistan anymore. We should all join hands and support the government of the Islamic Emirate and not allow anyone to destroy our homeland.


As long as Afghans disagree and unite among themselves, I do not think that Afghans can breathe a sigh of relief in their country. A good example is the war of the last four decades. Indeed, the implementers of the world's dirty and destructive plans are the Afghans themselves and the poverty of the Afghans. The internationals have built a laboratory in Afghanistan; they test whatever they like. This time, they have planned to make Afghans fight in the name of ISIS. Only God knows how many Afghans will perish in this project. It is hoped that the current rulers will speed up the efforts to gather Afghans. If not, God forbid, we will fall into the mouth of such a disaster going out of which will require a lot of sacrifices.


ISIS indeed carried out the terrorist attack (as claimed), and it is also true that no human being, especially Afghans, should be killed. But I'm asking you what you were doing in Tabian center? Did you not know that the Tabian Center is a branch of Iran's spy agency? The Tabian Center brings forward the demands of Iran's cultural and political development in the region and the development program of that country's dirty expansionist revolution. The Tabian Center and many other organizations Iran support create linguistic and ethnic differences among Afghans. Did you not know that Iran and Pakistan have been killing Afghans under different names for four decades? Didn't you know that Pakistan and Iran are continuing the bloodshed in Afghanistan to get Afghanistan's water for free? ... If you didn't understand all these words and don't understand, then you are not a journalist but a donkey, you know, a donkey! Even if you are alive, there is no benefit to society; if you are dead or injured, society will not benefit from you.


When will this series of killing Afghans stop? I was a child, and now I am about 28 years old, but the blood of an Afghan child still flows as it did 20 years ago. Even now, the same weapons are brought, and Afghans are killed with them, which were brought 20 years ago. Life is still the same as it was 20 years ago. The world's people are busy working for themselves, but instead of working, we are faced with explosions, blood, injuries, bullets, and dirty faces that come to kill us every day. This war will make us old, but it will not stop until we know ourselves and walk on the right path. This country needs work, but if we think. For example, a person who communicates with a terrorist and brings explosives from him and detonates but should establish this relationship with a rich person; encourages growth so that he is willing to work in different parts of Afghanistan. Yes, I agree that the connection of destruction is quickly established and the building is difficult, but see how much encouragement is given to the person doing the construction work, how much prayer is given to him, and how much favor he has for the people... So for God's sake, stop killing more Afghan children. I am asking this from both the internal and external agents. We know that the wheel of your business is running on these murders, but it is good to turn this wheel in another part to spread a smile on people's lips.


May God have mercy on Afghanistan and Afghans. One of the killing machines has not yet been switched off, as another one switches on, and the poor suffer from these events. If he is a journalist, he is poor; or a teacher, he is poor; or if; he is a cart driver, he is still poor. In the past, army soldiers were killed, and they were also children of poor people. The most are wage laborers making 15,000 AFN [per month] while such a fool takes their life, and his children will suffer for all their life. But we will refer and beg those who bring misery to our land ... why are you not leaving us alone? How many more of us do you want to kill? For God's sake, stop your killing machines anymore, and instead, think about the good life.