Gunman kills six in Afghan mosque attack: Govt spokesman

KABUL: Six people were killed when a gunman stormed a mosque in western Afghanistan, a government spokesman said Tuesday.

Interior ministry spokesman Abdul Mateen Qani said that on Monday around 9:00 pm (1630 GMT) “an unknown armed person shot at civilian worshippers in a mosque” in Herat province’s Guzara district. “Six civilians were martyred, and one civilian was injured,” he wrote on social media platform X early Tuesday morning.

The state-run Bakhtar News Agency gave the same death toll for the attack, which took place in a district just south of the provincial capital of Herat city.

Citing local sources, domestic media channel Tolo reported the mosque belonged to Afghanistan’s minority Shiite community.

While no group has yet claimed the attack, the regional chapter of Islamic State (IS) is the largest security threat in Afghanistan and has frequently targeted Shiite communities. The Taliban government has pledged to protect religious and ethnic minorities since returning to power in August 2021, but rights monitors say they’ve done little to make good on that promise.

The most notorious attack linked to IS since the Taliban takeover was in 2022, when at least 53 people — including 46 girls and young women — where slain in the suicide bombing of an education centre. Taliban officials blamed IS for the attack, which was staged in a Shiite neighbourhood of Kabul.

Kabul’s rulers claim to have ousted IS from Afghanistan and are highly sensitive to suggestions the group has found safe haven in the country since the withdrawal of foreign forces. A United Nations Security Council report released in January said there had been a decrease in IS attacks in Afghanistan because of “counter-terrorism efforts by the Taliban”.

But the report said IS still had “substantial” recruitment in the country and that the militant group had “the ability to project a threat into the region and beyond”.

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