Asia PacificTerrorism

Taliban Arrest IS ‘Mastermind’ of Afghan Mosque Attack: Police

Taliban forces have arrested a suspected Islamic State militant who allegedly planned a bomb attack that killed at least 12 worshippers at a Shiite mosque in Afghanistan, police said Friday.

IS has claimed responsibility for the bomb blast that tore through the Seh Dokan mosque during midday prayers in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Thursday.

The attack also wounded 58 people.

Balkh province’s police spokesman Asif Waziri said Abdul Hamid Sangaryar was a key operative of IS.

“He was the mastermind of yesterday’s attack on the mosque,” Waziri told AFP.

The country’s interior ministry also reported the arrest of Sangaryar, an Afghan national.

“He played a key role in several attacks in the past and had repeatedly managed to escape, but this time we arrested him in a special operation,” Waziri said.

IS also claimed a separate bomb attack in another northern city of Kunduz on Thursday that killed four people and wounded 18 people.

The Taliban authorities meanwhile stepped up security across Kabul’s main mosques as worshippers performed Friday prayers in the holy month of Ramadan.

Gun-touting Taliban fighters carried out body searches of hundreds of worshippers who arrived at the capital’s Abdul Rahman mosque, an AFP correspondent reported.

IS has taken responsibility for deadly attacks in Afghanistan, often against Shiite targets, even as the number of bombings have fallen since the Taliban seized power in August last year.

Shiite Afghans are mostly from the ethnic Hazara community and make up between 10 and 20 percent of the country’s 38 million people. They have long been the target of the IS, who consider them heretics.

Earlier this week, at least six people were killed in twin blasts that hit a boys’ school in a Shiite neighborhood of Kabul.

No group has so far claimed that attack.

Key Security Challenge

Taliban officials insist their forces have defeated IS, but analysts say the jihadist group is a key security challenge.

“Since the Taliban took power, the only achievement that they are proud of is the improvement in security,” Hekmatullah Hekmat, an independent political and security expert told AFP.

“If that is not sustained and if they fail to restrain IS then they will also be a failure like the previous government.”

The biggest ideological difference between the two Sunni Islamist groups is that the Taliban sought only an Afghanistan free of foreign forces, whereas IS wants an Islamic caliphate stretching from Turkey to Pakistan and beyond.

The Taliban have regularly raided suspected IS hideouts, especially in eastern Nangarhar province — a bastion of the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), the local wing of the jihadist group.

Hundreds of alleged IS militants and supporters have been arrested in these raids.

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