Taliban pledge to step up security at Shia mosques after suicide attacks

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The Taliban have vowed to improve security in Shiamosk after two major ISIS-led suicide attacks killed more than 120 people in Afghanistan within a week.

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The group has claimed responsibility for both attacks, the most recent of which a group of attackers shot at the largest Shiite mosque in Kandahar province – the Taliban’s spiritual stronghold – before blowing themselves up among worshipers.

At least 47 people have been killed and the death toll is expected to rise to 70 injured – just a week after a similar attack killed 80 worshipers during Friday prayers at a packed mosque in Kunduz.

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Under the new rule of the Sunni Taliban, Shia mosques have so far been protected by local volunteer forces with special permission to carry weapons.

But the police chief of Kandahar has now said that units will be set up for their security.

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In a statement posted on Twitter by a Taliban spokesman, he said, “Unfortunately they could not protect the area and in the future we will appoint special security guards to protect mosques and madrassas.”

Attacks on Shia mosques and targets linked to the Hazara ethnic minority, who make up the largest Shia group in Afghanistan, were regular incidents under the toppling Western-backed government.

The attacks, which have continued since the Taliban came to power in August, have struck a chord that has tarnished Islamists’ claims of bringing peace to Afghanistan after decades of war.

Since the takeover, ISIS-K has conducted dozens of operations – from small-scale attacks on Taliban positions to large-scale operations such as Friday’s bombing of the Fatima Mosque.

The official death toll in the attack in the southern city of Kandahar rose to 47 and injured 70, but the number could rise further. On Saturday, a huge crowd gathered to bury the victims in the mass grave of the White Shroud. In total, 63 graves were excavated.

“There are many who have lost body parts, and among those hospitalized in critical condition, I don’t know how many more will add to the death toll,” said community elder Haji Farhad.

The death toll in Kunduz was unknown, but health officials initially suggested 70 to 80 people lost their lives, while other reports suggested more than 100 died.

Shia leader Syed Mohammad Agha called on the Taliban government to take serious steps to protect religious minorities, “because our enemies will harm our society in any way we can.”

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