The Assassination of Taliban Officials in the North: Internal Disputes or ISIS Attacks?

By: Amin Kawa

Over the past two years, suicide attacks have claimed the lives of several Taliban officials. In the most recent incident, a suicide attack targeted and killed the acting governor and deputy governor of the Taliban in Badakhshan province. Similarly, Daud Muzamil, the Taliban governor of Balkh province, was previously killed by an ISIS suicide attacker inside his office. While no group has claimed responsibility for the attack in Badakhshan province, sources informed the Hasht-e Subh Daily that it was carried out by ISIS. However, some sources suggest that the assassination of the Taliban deputy governor stems from internal and local disputes. Earlier, similar incidents resulted in the deaths of the security commander and the head of the mines directorate for the Taliban in Badakhshan province.

Over the past 22 months, Taliban officials have faced repeated targeting by internal disputes and ongoing ISIS attacks. In a recent incident, a suicide attack involving a car bomb claimed the life of Mawlawi Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi, the deputy governor of the Taliban in Badakhshan province. The explosion occurred in front of the State High Court in Fayzabad City, Badakhshan province, at approximately 8:15 AM on Tuesday, June 6. Informed sources revealed to the Hasht-e Subh Daily that the attack resulted in the deaths of the deputy governor and his driver, while 10 others sustained injuries.

The “Martyr Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani Hospital” in Badakhshan province has released a list confirming that 15 people were either killed or injured in the incident. Among the casualties is Mawlawi Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi, whose name appears on the list. Additionally, Basit, son of Muhammad Isa and a resident of the first district of Fayzabad City, who was reportedly the driver of the Taliban deputy governor, has also been reported as deceased. The hospital’s list indicates that three individuals, including a Taliban militant with minor injuries, have been discharged after receiving initial treatment, while 10 others remain hospitalized.

Who was the deputy governor of the Taliban for Badakhshan province and who killed him?

Mawlawi Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi, the deputy governor and acting governor of the Taliban in Badakhshan province, was killed on Tuesday, June 6. He was originally from the 4th division of Fayzabad City. In the previous government, he served as the Imam of the Chatta Mosque in the central area of Fayzabad City. Following his dismissal from the central mosque, he joined the Taliban and assumed the role of deputy governor for Badakhshan province, playing a crucial part in the Taliban’s takeover of the province. Ahmadi, a former Taliban official, resided in Jawzon Valley in Fayzabad and had local connections in the Yaftal Sufla district of Badakhshan province. According to sources, he had been pursued by the national security forces of the previous government during his time as an Imam. However, some sources informed the Hasht-e Subh Daily that his killing resulted from internal disputes within the Taliban. These sources claim that Ahmadi had affiliations with the Kandahar faction of the Taliban and maintained close ties with Qari Din Mohammad Hanif, the acting Minister of Economy for the Taliban, who is also from Badakhshan province. The sources suggest that he might have been removed due to local and intra-group conflicts.

Meanwhile, a reliable source from former government officials concerning the assassinations of prominent Taliban figures in Badakhshan province states, “The ISIS group has targeted him. While there are local and intra-group disputes among them, the likelihood of Mawlawi Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi being killed as a result of intra-group disputes is minimal. ISIS has infiltrated the Taliban in Badakhshan province, and there are some signs and indications supporting this claim.”

He commented on the local disputes among the Taliban in Badakhshan province, stating, “There are disagreements and clashes among the Taliban, but it seems unlikely that they possess the capability to carry out suicide attacks. The National Resistance Front (NRF) is also not involved, as nobody is willing to engage in suicide attacks in this area. Therefore, it is highly probable that ISIS is responsible. Currently, there are several foreign groups operating in Badakhshan province, including the Turkistan Islamic Party (East Turkestan), Jamaat Ansarullah, and numerous other groups that have aligned with ISIS.”

Adding to the discussion, this former government official, hailing from Badakhshan province, further comments, “The geographical context of the disputes holds significant importance, but the Taliban have not assigned any prominent figures from this region to crucial government roles. If we consider his assassination as a result of intra-group disputes, it could be due to the fact that Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani remains a sensitive matter among them, and there is a certain level of mistrust within the disputes involving the Taliban. However, these possibilities are less probable in the case of Mawlawi Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi’s killing. It bears the markings of ISIS.”

Additionally, he stated that Mawlawi Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi became a member of the Taliban four years prior to the downfall of the previous government, and he had managed to earn the trust of the local population in the district. According to this source, Ahmadi played a crucial part in the capture of Fayzabad City, the provincial capital.

In a pattern of car bomb attacks, Taliban commanders in Badakhshan province have faced targeted killings before. One such incident occurred last year in December when Abdulhaq Abu Omar, the security commander of the Taliban in Badakhshan province, was killed near the group’s security command center. The suicide attack resulted in the death of three individuals and left four others injured. While the killing of Abdulhaq Abu Omar was initially attributed to intra-group disputes, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. Similarly, in April of the previous year, Mawlawi Abdul Fattah, the head of the Taliban’s mines directorate in Badakhshan province, was killed in a magnetic mine explosion. Abdul Fattah, a resident of the Yaftal Sufia district in Badakhshan province, was also believed to have been a victim of intra-group disputes within the Taliban.

Earlier, the Hasht-e Subh Daily received confirmation from informed sources that certain foreign groups, who had previously fought alongside the Taliban over the past two decades, have now shifted their allegiance and formed alliances with ISIS. President Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan also addressed this issue last week during the second meeting of Central Asian Leaders and the European Union in Kyrgyzstan, highlighting the transformation of northern Afghanistan into a hub for international terrorism.