ISKP claim two high-profile assassinations in Balkh and Herat
After eight weeks without any high-profile attacks in Afghanistan, ISKP target two high-ranking officials on consecutive days.
10 Mar 2023
This week, two Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISKP) attacks have taken place on consecutive days in Afghanistan, targeting high-ranking officials in Balkh and Herat provinces.
ISKP claimed an attack against the Director of the water supply department of Herat city, Mohammad Nader Kaka, on March 8. The next day, a suicide attack killed the Taliban Governor of Balkh province, Mullah Muhammad Daud Muzamil, with the incident also later claimed by ISKP.
The governor of Balkh is the highest-ranking Taliban member to be killed since the Taliban’s takeover in 2021.
Mullah Muhammad Daud Muzamil, the Taliban Governor of Balkh province
On March 9, the Taliban Governor of Balkh province, Mullah Muhammad Daud Muzamil, was killed in an explosion in Mazar-i-Sharif. The Taliban’s spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, announced Muzamil’s death on Twitter, and an image shared by a pro-Taliban account on social media was used by AW investigators to confirm the death. The image shows a deceased man with identical facial features to Muzamil.
Etilaatroz reported that Muzamil was killed along with several other people in a suicide attack in front of the governor’s office and that the explosion resulted in 30 casualties. According to the official website of the National Resistance Front (NRF), the deputy governor of Balkh province and the Taliban’s Head of Radio and Television, Ahmadullah Wasiq, were seriously injured in the same explosion. AW investigators could not independently verify these claims.
A video shared by a social media user allegedly shows the aftermath of the explosion. The footage shows clear signs of damage inside a building, along with considerable amounts of smoke, likely caused by a large explosion. AW investigators verified that the video did indeed show the aftermath of an explosion in the Balkh province governor's office by matching the video to an archived image of a prior meeting held in the office, showing identical features, as seen below.
ISKP claim the attack
CCTV footage shared by Aamaj News shows the moment the alleged suicide bomber entered the governor's office. AW investigators geolocated the CCTV footage to a building in the governor's compound, southwest of the Shrine of Hazrat Ali, in the centre of Mazar-i-Sharif.
ISKP claimed the attack the same day, via Islamic State-affiliated Amaq News on Telegram. According to the statement, the ISKP suicide bomber stayed inside the hallway after entering the building, where he waited for Mullah Muhammad Daud Muzamil to arrive at his office.
The CCTV footage shows an absence of guards inside the compound, as well as an abandoned security checkpoint inside the governor's building. This, combined with the ISKP statement – which indicates that the suicide bomber waited inside the hallway for his target – suggests a lack of security in the compound.
ISKP’s statement included an image of the alleged suicide bomber, who was named as Abdul Haq al-Khurasani, seen below:
Profile: Who was Muzamil?
Muzamil was of Pashtun ethnicity and was born in the Grishk district of Helmand province. He served as the Taliban’s battlefield commander fighting NATO-led British troops in his hometown in the early phase of resistance against the NATO/US coalition.
Later on, he was appointed as the deputy shadow governor of Farah and Uruzgan provinces, and the head of the military commission of the Taliban for the northern provinces of Afghanistan. Prior to the Taliban's takeover, Muzamil played a crucial role in ISKP’s territorial defeat in eastern Afghanistan. According to Iran Global, an Iranian online magazine, Muzamil had good relations with the IRGC of Iran.
After the Taliban's takeover, Muzamil served as governor of Nangarhar and during his introduction ceremony pledged to eliminate ISKP in the province. In February 2022, he was appointed Deputy Minister of Interior in Kabul. Finally, in October 2022, he was appointed to the position of Governor of Balkh province.
Mohammad Nader Kaka, Director of the water supply department of Herat city
On March 8, Mohammad Nader Kaka, Director of the water supply department of Herat city, was assassinated in Herat. The attack was claimed later that day by ISKP.
An [WARNING: GRAPHIC] image shared by journalists on social media was used by AW investigators to confirm the death. According to Mawlawi Naimulhaq Haqqani, the Director of Information and Culture for Herat Province, two of Kaka’s colleagues, who were in the vehicle at the time of the attack, were also killed.
AW investigators geolocated a video of the location where Mohammad Nader Kaka was assassinated. The video was geolocated to PD15, on the eastern side of Herat city along Martyr Alauddin Khan Boulevard, as seen below.
An [WARNING: GRAPHIC] image of the inside of the vehicle in which Kaka was assassinated was shared on Twitter by a regional journalist. AW investigators matched the vehicle to the one seen in the video of the incident scene. Several large pools of blood are visible in the image, confirming several people were affected by the attack.
Martyr Alauddin Khan Boulevard was the scene of two prior ISKP attacks in 2022. Both attacks were recorded by ISKP operatives and used as propaganda material.
● On July 4, 2022, ISKP [WARNING: GRAPHIC] targeted two buses, allegedly carrying Taliban al-Farooq Corps soldiers. One bus was geolocated east of Mostofia square, along Martyr Alauddin Khan Boulevard.
● On October 27, 2022, a bus carrying members of the Taliban's al-Farooq Corps was attacked along Martyr Alauddin Khan Boulevard. According to local reports, four people were killed and a further 18 people injured.
Previous attacks on high-ranking Taliban officials
Several high-ranking Taliban officials have been targeted since the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021.
On November 2, 2021, Kabul Corps Commander, Hamdullah Mukhlis was killed during a complex ISKP attack on Sardar Mohammad Dawood Khan Hospital, and on December 26, 2022, Badakhshan Police Chief Mawlawi Abdul Haq was killed by a vehicle-borne IED, along with six other Taliban members. The explosion which targeted Haq was filmed by ISKP and was widely used for propaganda purposes.