(Photo credit: Tasnim News Agency)
An explosion rocked a journalists’ function in Afghanistan’s northern province of Balkh on 11 March, killing four and injuring 16, Azeri Press Agency has reported. The attack came just two days after the province’s governor was killed in his office by a blast claimed by ISIS.
“A blast has taken place in the second police district of Balkh,” the province’s police spokesman, Mohamad Asif Waziri, said in a statement. Waziri added that three children were among the injured.
A journalist based in the Afghan province, Mohammad Fardin Nowrozi, told media that he and a number of other journalists were wounded in the explosion. It is still unsure what caused the blast, which took place at a journalists’ award ceremony in the Tabian Farhang Center in the provincial capital Mazar-e-Sherif. However, ISIS is suspected to be behind it.
On 9 March, the governor of Balkh province, Mohammad Dawood Muzammil, was killed in a suicide bombing while at his office in Mazar-e-Sherif, Waziri said at the time.
“It was a suicide attack. We don’t have information as to how the suicide bomber reached the office of the governor … When the governor was coming to his office, the man blew himself up in the office. The governor and a local man were martyred. A mujahid along with another civilian was injured,” the spokesman said on Thursday.
That day, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack through its media outlet, Amaq.
Since the Taliban’s victory over the US-backed Afghan army in August 2021 and the chaotic withdrawal of Washington’s troops from the country, Afghanistan has been rocked by several ISIS attacks and suicide blasts.
In November 2021, western media outlets reported that following Washington’s withdrawal from the country, US-trained spies and military personnel began filling the ranks of ISIS in Afghanistan, strengthening the group’s “critical expertise.”
“In some areas, ISIS has become very attractive [to former members of Afghan security and defense forces] who have been left behind,” the former head of the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), Rahmatullah Nabil, told The Wall Street Journal.
According to the US National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), ISIS and other extremist groups have maintained “an active presence” consisting of about 2,000 to 3,000 militants in Afghanistan. In January this year, US intelligence warned of a significant expansion of the ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K) network in the country.
However, Russian officials have repeatedly accused Washington of encouraging the extremist group’s activity in Afghanistan.
The Taliban has been actively engaged in combatting ISIS across the country. On 28 February, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) announced that its special forces had killed a number of high-ranking ISIS commanders who were responsible for recent attacks.