Storm after a Lull: Kabul Attack
Soumya Awasthi, Associate Fellow, VIF

Since the suicide bombing at the Kabul Airport on August 26, 2021, there was a period of lull. While, the Taliban has been shrewdly backing out from its promises which it made after taking over, but that’s about it. There were no major attacks and the common Afghan was occupied with his day to day struggle for existence amidst stringent Taliban rule.

However, on April 19 2022, two consecutive blasts in the Afghan capital have created a shock wave around the city. The blasts occurred near Dasht-e-Barchi, a Hazara dominated village which has often been attacked by the Sunni militants. Strikingly, like this time, the previous attacks in Dasht-e-Barchi were also on the educational institution.[1] The Mumtaz Education Centre and Abdul Rahim Shahid School have suffered a heavy loss in terms of men and material. [2] So far no one has claimed the attack, but experts view it to be a handiwork of IS-K.

The Hazaras are the ethnic minority community in Afghanistan who largely belong to the Shia sect.[3] They have been persecuted since 1883, when Emir occupied their land and regarded them as infidels, who should be killed as per the precepts of the Prophet. The vulnerability of the ethnic Hazaras in the country is on the rise, there have been local incidents of extortion, extrajudicial killings and forced displacements. The Hazaras have been denied access to humanitarian aid and international support. According to Patricia Gossman, Associate Director Asia at Human Rights Watch, “The IS-K armed group has repeatedly carried out devastating attacks that appear designed to spread terror and inflict maximum suffering particularly on Afghanistan’s Hazara community”.[4]

The Islamic State Khorasan is known for targeting religious places, centers of education, public places to spread fears of its terrorism. Although, in terms of ideology, both the Taliban and IS-K are Sunni militant groups, but one of them is hybrid form and the other is Salafi influenced respectively. These attacks look more of the IS-K act due to three reasons. Firstly, IS-K has attacked Dasht-e-Barchi’s educational institutions in the past as well; secondly, the Taliban even though are against the non-Sunnis but since they have come to power it hasn’t carried out any attack on the minorities. And the third, reason is the IS-K’s existential crises; since the Taliban’s rise to power, the IS-K has failed to win over any support based on religious superiority and consequently Islamic State’s attempts to showcase its influence have failed.

In addition to the Kabul attack, few days ago, IS-K even made a hoax call that it has launched a rocket attack on Armed Forces of Uzbekistan in Termez province. However, later the Presidents spokesman Sherzod Asadov, called it “absolute fake”. [5]

An important point to note here is that Uzbekistan is the only country in Central Asia which is on good terms with the Taliban. Uzbekistan is allowing its Cargo Centre in Termez to be used for supplying the UNHCR humanitarian aid to Afghanistan[6], as well as constructing a railway line from Termez to Mazar-e Sharif, which is projected to be extended further from Mazar-e-Sharif to Peshawar, making Afghanistan a transit hub.[7] This railway line is being supported by the Taliban as it will generate revenue for them. This has particularly irked the IS-K, which is also making attempts to make inroads into Central Asia.

India cannot let its guards down by drawing attention only to the Taliban and its human rights violations; it also needs to pay equal attention to IS-K and its terror activities. IS-K has been constantly focussing on South Asia with special emphasis on the domestic issues of India. Islamic State has ratcheted up its India centric propaganda through its magazine Voice of Hind and is making efforts to recast its image over the Muslim population in the country, by building on the narrative of Ghazwa-e-Hind (battle of India). IS-K in the year 2021 came out with a special edition on Kashmir and warned the nation of more attacks and target killings.[8] Therefore, it is imperative that the peace and tranquility in India is secured and IS-K activities in India and its neighbourood are kept under watch.

Endnotes :

[1]New Arab Staff and Agency, (2021), “25 Killed, 52 wounded in blast near Afghan School: Officials”, The Arab News, 08 May, 2021, https://english.alaraby.co.uk/news/25-killed-blast-near-afghan-school-officials
[2]Press Statement, (2022), “Attacks on Education Institutions in Kabul”, US Department of State, 19 April 2022, https://www.state.gov/attacks-on-education-institutions-in-kabul/
[3]Tim Young, (2005), “Afghanistan: the culmination of the Bonn Process”, House of Commons Library, https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/RP05-72/RP05-72.pdf
[4]Gandhara, (2021), “IS-K Attacks on Afghan Shia are Crimes against Humanity, Says HRW”, Gandhara, Radio Free, 25 October 2021, https://gandhara.rferl.org/a/afghan-shia-crimes-against-humanity/31527982.html
[5]Tashkent Times, (2022), “Presidents spokesman denies rocket from Afghanistan”, Tashkent Times, Uzbekistan, April 19, 2022, http://tashkenttimes.uz/national/8793-president-s-spokesman-denies-rocket-attack-from-afghanistan
[6]UNHCR Central Asia, (2021), “UNHCR send Humanitarian Aid to Afghanistan through Termez in Uzbekistan”, 15 December 2021, https://www.unhcr.org/centralasia/en/15595-unhcr-sends-humanitarian-aid-to-afghanistan-through-termez-in-uzbekistan.html
[7]Railway Technology, Uzbekistan, (2013), “Hairatan- Uzbekistan Rail Project”, 26 March 2013, https://www.railway-technology.com/projects/hairatanuzbekistanra/#:~:text=The%2075km%20rail%20link%20connects,Asian%20Development%20Bank%20(ADB)
[8]Arvind Ojha, (2021), “Islamic State Khorasan Warns of more Attacks in Kashmir amid Target Killings”, India Today, October 18, 2021,
https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/islamic-state-khorasan-attacks-kashmir-targeted-killings-1866275-2021-10-18

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>


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