Afghanistan: Islamic State claims deadly bomb blasts on Mazar-i-Sharif minibuses
The Islamic State (IS) terror group claimed two bomb blasts aboard minibuses that killed at least nine people on Thursday in Afghanistan's Mazar-i-Sharif, a week after a deadly explosion at a Shia mosque in the northern city.
The number of violent public attacks across Afghanistan has fallen since the Taliban returned to power last August, but the Sunni extremist Islamic State group has continued to target Shia Muslims, whom they view as heretics.
A string of deadly bombings targeting minority communities has convulsed the country in the past two weeks during the fasting month of Ramadan.
Thursday's blasts occurred within minutes of each other in different districts of Mazar-i-Sharif as commuters were heading home to break their dawn-to-dusk fast, Balkh provincial police spokesman Asif Waziri told AFP.
"The targets appear to be Shiite passengers," he said, adding 13 people were wounded in the blasts.
The so-called Islamic State Khorasan Province regional chapter took credit for the bombings, which it claimed inflicted 30 casualties.
Images posted on social media showed one minibus engulfed in fire, while the other was mangled, with Taliban fighters seen transporting victims from the vehicle to hospitals.
The blasts came one week after an attack on a Shia mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif killed at least 12 worshippers and wounded scores more.
That explosion was followed a day later by the bombing of another mosque in Kunduz targeting the minority Sufi community, who follow a mystical path within Islam.
It killed at least 36 people during Friday prayers.
In Kabul, another attack also targeted Shia Muslims, with two bombs detonated at a school, killing six students.
The jihadist IS claimed the mosque attack in Mazar-i-Sharif, but no group has so far taken responsibility for the bombing in Kunduz or at the Kabul school.
Shia Afghans, who are mostly from the Hazara ethnic minority community, make up between 10 and 20 percent of Afghanistan's population of 38 million.
Three years after the Islamic State group lost the last sliver of territory it controlled in Syria, its sleeper cells have been increasing attacks in recent months, mainly targeting the Kurdish-led SDFhttps://t.co/Mnl3xHd5HZ— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) April 28, 2022
The regional branch of IS in Sunni-majority Afghanistan has repeatedly targeted Shia Muslims and other minorities, such as Sufis.
Despite also being a Sunni extremist group, the Taliban are bitter rivals of fellow Islamists IS.
The biggest ideological difference is that the Taliban pursued an Afghanistan free of foreign forces, whereas IS wants an Islamic caliphate stretching from Turkey to Pakistan and beyond.
Taliban officials insist their forces have defeated IS, but analysts say the jihadist group remains a key security challenge.
Afghan government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP earlier Thursday that several arrests had been made in connection with the string of recent attacks.
"These attacks targeted places that did not have enough security like mosques and a school, but now we have stepped up security in such places," he said.