Persistent Attacks: Is Badakhshan Province Becoming a Safe Haven for Terrorists?

By: Amin Kawa

In the past week, suicide attacks claimed the lives of two senior Taliban commanders in Badakhshan province, resulting in the death of 14 people and injuries to 43 others, primarily civilians. These attacks have drawn condemnation from the United States, Iran, and the United Nations, who denounced the deliberate targeting of civilians during a funeral ceremony for a Taliban official in Fayzabad City. However, certain media activists and politicians characterize these events as contributing to the transformation of Badakhshan province into a sanctuary for terrorists. It is important to note that the responsibility for these incidents has been claimed by the ISIS group.

Last week, a suicide bombing took place in Badakhshan province, located in the northeast of the country, resulting in the death of Mawlawi Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi, the deputy governor appointed by the Taliban to Badakhshan province. Two days later, Fayzabad City, the capital of the province, witnessed another devastating explosion. According to sources, the suicide attack occurred on Thursday, June 8, around 11:00 AM at the Nabawi Mosque in the new city of Fayzabad during the funeral ceremony of Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi. Health sources reported 11 fatalities and 33 injuries as a result of this incident. Sixteen critically injured individuals were subsequently transported to Kabul, and tragically, one of them passed away at the Sardar Mohammad Daoud Khan National Military Hospital. Therefore, the total casualties in this event, including Mawlawi Safiullah Samim, a former commander of the group in Baghlan province, amounted to 12 fatalities. Overall, the two attacks claimed the lives of 14 individuals, including two Taliban commanders, and left 43 others wounded. Health sources in Badakhshan province confirmed these figures to the Hasht-e Subh Daily, although local sources believe that the actual number of injured victims may be higher.

Informed sources have confirmed to the Hasht-e Subh Daily that the incident at the Nabawi Mosque in Badakhshan province was a “suicide attack.” According to the sources, the funeral ceremony commenced at approximately 8:00 AM and concluded around 11:00 AM, just before lunchtime. One source stated, “It was a suicide attack. The perpetrator carefully timed the explosion to coincide with the end of the program when officials were gathering, likely to deliver speeches. As Mawlawi Safiullah and others were preparing to depart, given his recognized status as a Taliban official, people wished to greet him. It was at that moment the suicide bomber approached and detonated himself. Mawlawi Safiullah was killed instantly.”

According to the source, no security measures were implemented during the funeral ceremony. The source highlights, “There were clearly no security measures in place, despite the knowledge that it was a prayer gathering for a senior official. They were aware of the participation of influential individuals, yet no specific precautions were taken. There was no physical screening or similar security measures in effect. Following the blast, their intelligence forces were in disarray and faced confusion. They responded by firing indiscriminately, and it was observed that the gates were suspiciously closed after the explosion.”

According to the source, civilians have sustained injuries as a result of the Taliban’s military activities. Previously, a child was injured in a car bombing aimed at the group’s deputy governor and was subsequently transported to Kabul. The source further states, “Mawlawi Safiullah’s fighters and other Taliban members reacted emotionally, firing indiscriminately in various directions. Numerous individuals were injured, with limbs being specifically targeted.”

The second suicide attack claimed the lives of Safiullah Samim, a former Taliban commander in Baghlan province, and Haji Akram Khan, another local Taliban leader. Additionally, several former jihadist commanders affiliated with the Jamiat-e Islami political party were also killed. Mohammad Osman, known as Zia-ul-Haq Abuzar and a commander of the Jamiat-e Islami in Badakhshan province, suffered severe injuries and later succumbed to them after being transferred to Kabul. This Jamiat-e Islami commander had previously served as the security commander of Badakhshan province during the rule of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former President of Afghanistan. Among the injured in this incident are Fayzullah Amaj, a local Taliban commander, Basir Khan Khalid, a member of the Jamiat-e Islami, and Mawlawi Jamil, the head of the group’s court in Badakhshan province.

It is noteworthy that the ISIS group has claimed responsibility for both events. Sources also attribute these attacks to internal disputes and rivalries within the Taliban, which have created favorable conditions for the infiltration of the ISIS group. Furthermore, dissatisfied Taliban members in contact with the ISIS group are believed to be capable of conducting targeted attacks using the information provided by local individuals.

US and Iran Label Attacks on the Taliban Commanders as “Terrorist”

The recent attacks in Badakhshan province have elicited responses from several politicians and former government officials. Former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, the former head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, have criticized these attacks for causing civilian casualties. Salahuddin Rabbani, the leader of the Jamiat-e Islami Political Party, has characterized the recent events in Badakhshan province as a “persistent intra-Taliban conflict.” In a statement issued on Thursday, June 8, he declared that all forms of terrorism and extremism, particularly those targeting civilians, are unjust, un-Islamic, and inhumane. The statement further asserts that the recent incidents in Badakhshan province, attributed to ISIS, are a continuation of the Taliban’s internal power struggles.

Meanwhile, the National Resistance Front (NRF) has voiced concerns about the situation in Badakhshan province. The front expressed sympathy for the families impacted by the recent incidents, particularly non-combatants. It strongly condemns suicide attacks and the placement of mines in mosques, military installations, and public areas, attributing these acts to the remaining Taliban elements. According to the front, the recent events in Badakhshan province stem from intergroup conflicts and the Taliban’s aim to establish a safe and enduring refuge for regional terrorists.

At the same time, social media users are recalling past Taliban attacks, which the Taliban claimed responsibility for. Users have commented, “They reap what they have sowed.” It is important to note that the Taliban had previously acknowledged their involvement in the majority of suicide attacks.

The recent attacks in Badakhshan province have also received international condemnation. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) strongly condemned the suicide attack in Badakhshan province, expressing deep concern over reports of civilian casualties. UNAMA explicitly denounced this attack and the recent series of appalling and indiscriminate attacks that display a complete disregard for civilian lives.

Thomas West, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan, categorized the suicide attack on the Nabawi Mosque in Fayzabad as a “terrorist” act. In a Persian tweet, Mr. West expressed that reports indicate the tragic terrorist attack on a mosque in Badakhshan province has claimed the lives of numerous Afghan civilians and caused injuries. The United States vehemently condemns this abhorrent crime committed in a sacred place of worship.

On the other hand, Nasser Kanaani, the spokesperson for the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, denounced the attack as a “terrorist” act. Iran expressed its condolences to the families of the victims while condemning the incident. Kanaani emphasized that such terrorist and ignorant attacks on ordinary people and innocent citizens, particularly in religious and spiritual places, have no connection with the teachings of Islam, a noble religion, and are strongly condemned.

The Taliban have condemned the attack on their deputy’s mourning ceremony in Badakhshan province. Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson, tweeted that the attack resulted in the death of 11 people and injured 30 others. He pledged to pursue those responsible for these events. However, no official accusation was made against any particular group for their involvement in the attack.

Meanwhile, some media activists view the recent attacks in Badakhshan province as indicative of the province becoming a haven for terrorists. They believe that fighters from different groups have gathered in the province, and the Taliban has contributed to this by relocating certain jihadist elements there.

Badakhshan province, known for its abundant mineral resources, holds significant importance in Afghanistan and serves as a major transit route for drug trafficking to the Middle East. Previously, local rivalries among former parliamentarians and Kabul-based officials exacerbated the security situation in the province. Presently, political analysts argue that specific factions within the Taliban aim to establish a safer environment for foreign fighters by eliminating influential figures who have garnered support from the local population.