Gunman kills at least six in attack on mosque in Afghanistan’s Herat

Government spokesman says unknown armed person shot at worshippers in a mosque in Herat province, killing at least six people.

Afghan men perform Friday prayer in a mosque in Kabul [File: Ali Khara/Reuters]Published On 30 Apr 202430 Apr 2024

A gunman stormed a mosque in western Afghanistan and killed six people, a government spokesman says.

Ministry of Interior Affairs spokesman Abdul Mateen Qani said “an unknown armed person shot at civilian worshippers in a mosque” at about 9pm (16:30 GMT) on Monday in Andisheh town of Guzara district in Herat province.

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“Six civilians were martyred and one civilian was injured,” he wrote on social media platform X early on Tuesday morning.

The state-run Bakhtar News Agency gave the same death toll for the attack. Citing local sources, local media channel Tolo reported the mosque belonged to Afghanistan’s minority Shia community.

A prayer leader, known as Imam, was also killed in the attack, local media reports said. The Iranian embassy in Kabul condemned the attack.

While no group has yet claimed the attack, the regional chapter of ISIL (ISIS) is the largest security threat in Afghanistan and has frequently targeted Shia communities.

The Taliban government has pledged to protect religious and ethnic minorities since returning to power in August 2021, but rights monitors say they have done little to make good on that promise.

The most notorious attack linked to ISIL since the Taliban takeover was in 2022, when at least 53 people – including 46 girls and young women – were slain in the suicide bombing at an education centre in a Shia neighbourhood of Kabul. Taliban officials blamed ISIL for the attack.

Kabul’s new rulers claim to have eliminated ISIL from Afghanistan and are highly sensitive to suggestions the group has found safe haven in the country since the withdrawal of foreign forces.

Taliban authorities have frequently given death tolls lower than other sources after bombings and gun attacks, in an apparent attempt to downplay security threats.

A United Nations Security Council report released in January said there had been a decrease in ISIL attacks in Afghanistan because of “counter-terrorism efforts by the Taliban”. But the report also said ISIL still had “substantial” recruitment in the country and that the armed group had “the ability to project a threat into the region and beyond”.

The ISIL’s chapter spanning Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia claimed responsibility for the March attack on the Crocus City Hall concert venue in Moscow, where more than 140 people were killed. It was the deadliest attack in Russia in two decades.

Source: News Agencies