Yesterday hundreds of villagers in Afghanistan came together to bury their loved ones and share their grief with each other and the world. On Friday a terrorist attack destroyed their village mosque, only two days after a report by the United Nations stating that civilian violence has reached extreme levels. The report mentioned 1,174 civilian deaths in the span of three months leading up to September. The attack happened to a mosque in Nangarhar; a bomb went off during morning prayer, trapping around 150 people under the rubble of the collapsed roof. Sohrab Qaderi, a local representative. has confirmed 69 fatalities and 36 wounded, among whom there was a large number of teenagers.
What’s most peculiar about this attack is the fact that it has remained unclaimed. If I must grossly simplify the political situation in Afghanistan for the casual “8 o’clock news-watcher”, then I would point out that there is a political conflict between the Taliban and the government. For examples of this you don’t have to look further than the last election, where the Taliban threatened attacks on voting houses in an effort to undermine the legitimacy of the government. The number of voting citizens was low enough that the government felt the need to “try again” in November.
Following the attack both the government and the Taliban have pointed fingers at each other. Sediq Sediqqi, a representative of president Ghani, posted on Twitter that the government strongly condemns this violence, and specifies that it is heinous for the Taliban and their partners to target civilians in time of worship. Suhail Shaheen, a spokesperson for the Taliban, tweeted that the Taliban denies responsibility, and claims that :“All witnesses say it was a mortar attack by Kabul Administration”. Contents aside, I’d like you to take note of the absurdity of this statement being communicated, by the Taliban, through the platform of Twitter, but I must relent that this is the post-Trump world we live in now.
All in all this is a strange situation. The Taliban has never shied away from both violence, and taking responsibility for said violence, and has terrorised Afghanistan after it was removed from power in 2001. But it is also worth noting that in the UN report documenting the civilian deaths it was mentioned that there was an alarming rise in casualties caused by pro-government groups.
As of right now too little time has passed to make conclusions about who attacked the mosque. Whatever the conclusion, there will be lasting political impacts, especially this close to the elections. In this unsure and violent time, the world owes it to the people of Afghanistan to keep watching. As of right now, 1.174 innocent civilians in the last three months, and 69 in the last two days, have lost their lives. Omar Waraich, an Amnesty International director, says that this attack “demands the world’s attention”. I just hope it keeps this attention, in the very least until the next election on the 26th of November.