Afghanistan reels after two mosque bombings kill nearly 90 people

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KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — For years, Ali Kadem has had a perfect view of the Imam Zaman Mosque from the window of the bread bakery where he works. As he sits cross-legged handing out 10 Afghani ($0.15) loaves of bread, the 18-year-old often looks out onto the mosque he has been to thousands of times.

He has watched members of his community in the Dasht-e Barchi neighborhood of Kabul enter the green-and-white mosque for the five daily prayers, Eid holidays, Ashura commemorations, and any number of other occasions.

But nothing could prepare him for what would befall dozens of worshippers on Friday evening.

Kadem was preparing loaves of bread when the sound of the bomb rang out throughout the neighborhood.

“We were just sitting here when we heard the sound and saw the smoke rising,” he recalled.

A suicide bomber, Abu Ammar al-Turkmani, later identified by the local branch of the Iraq and Syria-based so-called Islamic State group, had detonated his explosives in the mosque.

The walls of the Imam Zaman Mosque spattered in blood. (Ali M. Latifi)

According to the United Nations, at least 50 worshippers were killed. Another 50 people were reported injured.

The moments following the bombing were a blur for Kadem and other shop workers in the vicinity. Residents recalled hysterical family and friends of the victims, all from their community, rushing to the scene.

“Cars were coming to transport the martyred and injured,” said Kadem. He estimated at least 60 people were rushed out of the mosque, whose pristine white walls were suddenly covered in blood.

“Never in my life could I have imagined that mosques would come under attack. These were people remembering their God.”

The Imam Zaman attack was the second bombing of a mosque in the country that day. A bomber targeted the Khwajagan mosque in the central province of Ghor on Friday afternoon, resulting in at least 30 deaths. Atta Mohammad Noor, the governor of the northern province of Balkh, said the target of the Ghor bombing was Abdul Ahed, the former militia commander and Jamiat-e Islami party member.

“Never in my life could I have imagined that mosques would come under attack. These were people remembering their God,” said Abdullah, 30, who has lived in the Dasht-e Barchi neighborhood for 18 years.

Increasingly deadly attacks on mosques

Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN’s Special Representative to Afghanistan, condemned Friday’s attacks.

In a statement to the press, Yamamoto said the “brutal and senseless attacks against people at prayer are atrocities… The persons most responsible for the attacks must be brought to justice.”

Among the dozens killed in the Imam Zaman attack were the director of a local health institute, a young doctor, and several women and children.

In total, at least 100 worshippers have been killed in mosques since August.

A banner outside the Barchi Business Center reads: ‘Mourners of the Imam Zaman martyrs’ (Ali M. Latifi)

Over the past two months, three mosques in Kabul and one in the Western province of Herat have come under attack — a grim reminder of the deteriorating security situation in the country.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan estimates that so far in 2017, attacks directed against the Shi’a population specifically in mosques or other religious ceremonies have resulted in a total 278 civilian casualties. Of those casualties, 84 resulted in death.

In the weeks leading up to the October 1 commemoration of the religious holiday of Ashura, the government began arming local civilians and beefing up police presence throughout the Shi’a-majority areas of the country. Though the Ashura commemorations came and went without incident, the days prior saw an attack on a mosque in the Qalai Faetuallh neighborhood of the capital. The September 29 suicide bombing led to five deaths and at least 25 injuries.

The nation’s top religious council condemned the wave of mosque attacks as “inhuman and un-Islamic” acts carried out by the “enemies of humanity.”

A bloody week in the country

The Friday attacks came after a bloody week in the country. On Tuesday, October 17, more than 70 members of the Afghan National Security Forces and civilians were killed in attacks on the provinces of Paktia, Ghazni, Kabul and Farah.

Deputy interior minister, Murad Ali Murad, said the October 17 wave of attacks were the biggest so far this year.

The spate of nationwide attacks come as U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to “win” the 16-year-long U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. Days after Trump’s August 21 announcement, John W. Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, promised to increase the number of U.S. forces deployed to the Central Asian nation.

Trump’s promises to put pressure on Pakistan, the nation Afghans have long accused of aiding and abetting the armed opposition in Afghanistan, has won the support of Kabul government.

To Afghan leaders, Trump’s Afghanistan strategy was seen as a much-needed step in the right direction.

Javid Faisial, deputy spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, is among the Afghan government officials who praised Trump’s recent rhetoric on Islamabad.

“Prior to Trump’s statement, the difficulties we faced as Afghans was never overtly stated by the U.S.,” he said.

Faisal said previously, “Washington never came right out and said that Pakistan is giving sanctuary to the enemy groups that are attacking both our forces and the foreign forces.”

Weary of bloodshed

With deaths mounting and an increase in civilian casualties from U.S. airstrikes in the country, the Afghan people remain weary.

In a closed-door Saturday morning meeting, the lower house of the Afghan parliament questioned top security officials, including the acting Defense Minister, Tariq Shah Bahrami, to address the recent string of attacks across the nation.

“There is no talk of peace, just more war. We’ve seen the death and the destruction for 16 years, but no one is asking what the source of the problem is.”

In the weeks after Trump’s announcement, Habib, a resident of the eastern province of Nangarhar, said no one in Washington or Kabul is talking about an end to the war and bloodshed.

“There is no talk of peace, just more war. We’ve seen the death and the destruction for 16 years, but no one is asking what the source of the problem is.”

“What are they truly fighting against or for? We still don’t know,” Habib said.

The Imam Zaman Mosque following a suicide bombing Friday. (Ali M. Latifi)

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اخبار حلويات الاسرة طب عام طعام وشراب