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Suicide bombing at Kandahar’s largest Shia mosque, Hazara ethnic minority targeted

The double explosion reportedly killed 40 people. AW analyses the CCTV footage from the attack.


15 Oct 2021

Warning: this article contains links to very graphic material.

On October 15 2021, at 12:42 AM GMT, more than 40 people were reportedly killed and dozens more injured as two explosions hit Kandahar’s largest Shia mosque, Masjed Jame Fatemeyya, or the Bibi Fatima mosque, located in Police District 1.

Figure 1: Hazara worshippers in the mosque

Figure 2: Location of attack

As the largest Shia Mosque in Kandahar city, the Fatima mosque is primarily attended by the Hazara ethnic minority, the country's third largest ethnic group, who for years have faced discrimination and persecution in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan.

ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement released by its Amaq news agency. The group stated that two ‘Islamic State fighters’ - Anas al-Khrasani and Abu Ali Al-Blushi - had entered through the security gate of the mosque after shooting the guards, before proceeding to blow themselves up amongst the worshippers attending busy Friday prayers.

Figure 3: ISIS in their statement of responsibility

Based on image and video (Twitter) footage analysis, Afghan Witness (AW) investigators were able to confirm the existence of two separate blast sites: one inside the prayer area and another at the main entrance, as illustrated by the figures below.

CCTV footage released on Twitter a day after the attack showed the two attackers opening fire in front of the main entrance and confirmed the exact locations of the two suicide explosions: the mosque entrance and main prayer hall. The attack - from the start of the shooting at the entrance to the second explosion - lasted just 24 seconds.

AW’s OSINT investigators have used the CCTV footage to provide a reconstruction of the attack:

Figures 4,5,6: reconstruction of attack by AW using CCTV footage

The Kandahar mosque bombing came just a week after another similar ISIS-K-claimed attack on Shiite worshippers at a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz. More than 50 people were killed in the attack and 100 others injured.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack in Kandahar, the Fatima mosque issued a call for action on their social media, asking followers to donate blood for the injured. According to an AFP journalist, at least 15 ambulances were at the scene afterwards.

A local source reported on Twitter that two Iranian cargo planes with medical staff and food aid reportedly landed in Kandahar on October 18 to provide support and treatment to the victims of the Shia mosque attack, including the transfer of the most severely wounded to Iranian hospitals due to insufficient equipment in the Kandahar province. The aid provided by Iran is said to have included several tons of medicine and food by agreement with the Taliban.

Images 7,8: Iranian cargo planes reportedly delivered supplies to victims of the mosque attack (images unverified)

ISIS-K - who oppose the country’s Taliban rulers - have carried out multiple attacks in the past in Afghanistan, and have targeted Afghan security forces, Afghan politicians and ministries, religious minorities including Shia Muslims and Sikhs, girls schools, hospitals and even a maternity ward. They have also targeted the Taliban, as well as US and Nato forces and international agencies, including aid organisations.

AW continues to monitor their activity in provinces throughout the country.

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