Last Friday, as worshippers gathered for prayers at the Sayyidabad mosque in Kunduz city, a suicide bomber blew himself up, killing some 50 people. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan put the number of those killed and wounded at the Shia-Hazara mosque at over 100. The brutal Islamic State’s Khorasan chapter accepted responsibility for the deadly bombing.
Shia Hazaras, who constitute roughly 9pc of the Afghan population, have long suffered deep-rooted discrimination and persecution. However, attacks against the ethnic-religious group have seen an uptick in recent months. A Kabul school bombing (not claimed by any group) in a largely Hazara locality, just two months before the Taliban took over, left 100 people dead, most of them schoolgirls, signalling a new campaign.
What is more disconcerting is the IS-K’s growing ability to carry out attacks in a country ruled by a group that hitherto had sole monopoly over violence in Afghanistan. In IS-K, the Afghan Taliban have a new challenger. It remains to be seen how quickly the Taliban transition from an insurgent guerrilla group to a stabilising force in the country. The Taliban leadership had promised to protect Afghanistan’s minorities. They must now walk the talk. Brushing aside the IS-K as a minor threat that can be addressed later is neither reassuring nor convincing.