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

A gunman forcefully entered a mosque located in western Afghanistan and tragically took the lives of six individuals, according to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Interior Affairs. The incident occurred on Monday at around 9pm (16:30 GMT) in the town of Andisheh, within the Guzara district of Herat province. The spokesperson further stated that an unidentified armed individual targeted civilian worshippers inside the mosque. Early on Tuesday morning, the spokesperson shared on the social media platform X that six civilians were martyred and one civilian sustained injuries as a result of the attack. The state-run Bakhtar News Agency also reported the same death toll. Local media outlet Tolo, citing local sources, mentioned that the targeted mosque belonged to Afghanistan’s minority Shia community. Reports from local media also indicated that a prayer leader, known as the Imam, was among those killed in the attack. The Iranian embassy in Kabul condemned the incident. Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attack thus far, the regional chapter of ISIL (ISIS) has posed a significant security threat in Afghanistan, often targeting Shia communities. Since their return to power in August 2021, the Taliban government has made assurances to safeguard religious and ethnic minorities. However, human rights monitors claim that little progress has been made in fulfilling this promise. The most notable attack attributed to ISIL following the Taliban’s takeover occurred in 2022, when a suicide bombing in a Shia neighborhood of Kabul resulted in the deaths of at least 53 people, including 46 girls and young women, with the Taliban officials blaming ISIL for the attack. The current authorities in Kabul assert that they have eradicated ISIL from Afghanistan and are highly sensitive to any suggestions that the group has found refuge in the country following the departure of foreign forces. Taliban officials have frequently provided lower death tolls than other sources in the aftermath of bombings and gun attacks, seemingly aiming to downplay the extent of security threats. A report released by the United Nations Security Council in January indicated a decline in ISIL attacks in Afghanistan due to the “counter-terrorism efforts by the Taliban.” However, the report also highlighted that ISIL still maintains “substantial” recruitment within the country and possesses the capability to pose a threat within the region and beyond. The ISIL branch spanning Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia claimed responsibility for the devastating attack on the Crocus City Hall concert venue in Moscow in March, which resulted in the loss of over 140 lives. This attack stands as the deadliest in Russia over the past two decades.

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