VP Saleh blames Taliban for murder of religious leader in Kabul

The First Vice President, Amrullah Saleh, has blamed the Taliban for killing a famous Afghan religious scholar, Mullah Mohammad Ayaz Niazi, in a mosque bombing, which took place late Tuesday night, June 02, in PD9 of Kabul city. The militant group “cannot acquit itself of the committed crime and terror [act]” with two written sentences, he said.

A bomb planted inside the complex of Wazir Akbar Khan mosque, a popular mosque which is often attended by high profile officials in the most fortified part of Kabul, went off around 07:25 PM and killed Niazi along with a prayer. Two others were wounded, according to Tariq Arian, spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior. Niazi was prayer leader of the mosque. He would usually preach Islamic teachings through Afghanistan National Television, RTA.

The Taliban, however, have rejected involvement in the attack. “We strongly condemn the attack on him and see it as major crime,” said Zabihuallah Mujahid, a spokesperson for the militant group.

Niazi’s death sparked widespread national and international condemnations. Afghan government, Abdullah Abdullah, Chairperson of the High Council of National Reconciliation, UNAMA, the US Embassy in Kabul, NATO’s civilian representative for Afghanistan, and many Afghan politicians have reacted against killing of the popular religious scholar.

According to VP Saleh, there is no ideological and operational differences between the Taliban and the Islamic State Khurasan Province. “Our duty is to find out the criminals which we will do just as we have jailed thousands of them,” Saleh said.

Issuing a statement today, June 03, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), condemned the attack as serious violation of human rights and international humanitarian law, calling on the government to probe the incident comprehensively. The AIHRC further urged the government to identify the perpetrators of the attack and bring them to justice.

President Ghani’s spokesperson, Sediq Sediqi, said in a tweet today, June 03, that the President has assigned a fact-finding committee to probe the mosque attack. The committee is chaired by the minister of Haj and Religious Affairs, Abdul Hakim Munib.

Speaking at funeral ceremony held for the religious scholar, President Ghani called on Afghan religious scholars to stand united for bringing peace to Afghanistan. Ghani urged the Taliban to remain committed to the ceasefire they had announced during Eid al-Fitr days in a bid to go ahead for start of the intra-Afghan negotiations. “Continue with the ceasefire which brought happiness for the people during Eid al-Fitr and separate your ways from extremist groups,” Ghani addressed the Taliban.

Ghani’s demand for continuation of the ceasefire comes while a roadside bomb explosion, attributed to the Taliban, has killed 10 civilians and wounded four others in Arghistan district of Kandahar province, according to Jamal Naser Barakzay, spokesperson for the Kandahar police chief.

Police chief of Sayed Karam district of the eastern Paktia province along with three of his security men were killed in an attack, today, June 03, while they were on their way to defend a security outpost which was under the Taliban attack, said Sharif Kaliwal, district chief of Sayed Karam district. He added that four others were wounded in the roadside bomb explosion.

A Taliban infiltrator killed two Afghan police forces in the southern Urozgan province on Tuesday, June 02, around 08:30 p.m., said Zargai Ebadi, spokesperson for the province governor.

On the other hand, Najmudding Burhani, spokesperson for the governor of the western Badghis province, confirmed that a female personnel of the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan intelligence agency, was assassinated in Qala-e-Naw, capital city of the province, on Tuesday, June 02.

Though the Office of the National Security Council says that following Eid al-Fitr there is a détente in place with the Taliban, sporadic attacks by the Taliban and other unknown armed groups have taken lives of dozens people, mostly civilians, since then. Such attacks and incidents can partially bring the Taliban’s unity under a united commanding center into questions. The Taliban leadership has repeatedly claimed that they have a strong centralized command over Taliban commanders in fields but sporadic attacks by the group suggest a contradictory fact which shows that the militant group is not as unified as the Taliban leadership claims.      

Moreover, a recent UN report shows that the Taliban have continued to support al-Qaeda presence in Afghanistan even after the group political leadership signed a peace deal agreement – breaking the central tenants of the agreement that it would break ties with al-Qaeda – on February 29 with the United State. According to the UN report, around 400 to 600 operatives of Al-Qaeda are active in 12 provinces of Afghanistan with the terrorist outfit maintaining training camps in the east of the country.

UN’s new report on the Taliban suggests that the US-Taliban deal seems more fragile. Under the deal, the Taliban have made a written commitment to cut ties with extremist groups—in particular al-Qaeda network. Under the very agreement, they have made an oral commitment to reduce violence, which is part of a confidence-building measure between the two for commencement of intra-Afghan talks—but the realities on the ground indicate a series of rise in violence by the Taliban.