Another bomb attack at a madrassa

Most of the dead are pupils, aged 9 to 15. The attack is still unclaimed. Weaker in the Middle East, the Islamic State is trying to undermine Taliban control in Afghanistan. While the UN and local resistance groups propose unrealistic solutions, the Taliban increase their repression. Increasingly, some Afghans resort to selling their children in an attempt to survive hunger and another winter.

Kabul (AsiaNews) – At least 35 people were killed yesterday and more than 20 wounded in a bomb blast at a madrassa (religious school) in Aybak, capital of Afghanistan’s Samangan province, about 200 km north of the capital Kabul. Most of the victims were pupils aged 9 to 15 who were praying at the time of the blast.

So far, no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Islamic State-Khorasan province (IS-K) remains the main suspect. Taliban authorities announced an investigation into the incident.

Since they came back to power in August 2021, the Taliban have been trying to prove that they control the country; however, IS-K view them as not sufficiently Islamic; for this reason, they have consistently attacked political or religious targets, despite the fact that civilians are the main victims.

The recent death of the Islamic State’s leader Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi shows a weak chain of command and highlights its state of crisis in the countries where it originated (Syria and Iraq), but this is not the case in Afghanistan (or West Africa), where the group is concentrating its attacks.

In a recent publication, the Institute for the Study of War recently mapped the presence of anti-Taliban groups across Afghanistan, dividing them into two categories: Islamic State-aligned groups and non–Salafi-jihadi resistance groups linked to the National Resistance Front (NRF).

The NRF is under the command of Ahmad Massoud, son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, who led the fight against Soviet occupation in the 1980s and was killed in al-Qaeda-sponsored assassination a day before the 9/11 attacks in New York.

Non-Salafi-jihadi anti-Taliban groups are mainly concentrated in the north-eastern provinces, while IS-K is present across the country, especially in the cities, like Kabul, Herat, and Jalalabad.

In terms of sheer numbers, IS-K is stronger, while the NRF groups tend to have smaller units with limited fighting capabilities.

Following reports of extrajudicial killings, including of children, in northern Daikundi province, the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) today called on the Taliban to hold a “credible” investigation into what happened.

The Taliban rejected the request saying that a deadly gunfight broke out in Daikundi between security force and suspected armed rebels but denied that children had been killed.

UNAMA also invited ambassadors resident in Kabul to fly on Monday to Kandahar, seat of the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan, for a direct exchange of views on the situation in the country.

Yesterday, NRF leader Ahmad Massoud made a rare public appearance in Dushanbe where he said that only election can end Afghanistan’s crisis.

"If the Taliban come to power through elections, (the Resistance Front) will accept that as they will have the authority from the people,” he said.

Needless to say, both the United Nations and Massoud have highly unrealistic expectations. In fact, the Taliban continue to tighten their grip on the country.

Today, they banned FM broadcasts from Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, while their Supreme Court ordered the public flogging of 21 people, including six women, for immorality, running away from home, and alcohol consumption.

The latest list of bans includes excluding women from public parks, and forcing teachers to sit for oral and written religious knowledge  exams if they want to continue working.

Speaking anonymously, some people told AMU TV that they believe that this was yet another trick by the Taliban to prevent women from working.

Meanwhile, life for ordinary Afghans is getting more desperate as poverty and hunger force families to sell their daughters or organs for money in the hope of getting through another winter.

According to Médecins Sans Frontières, malnutrition-related hospitalisations in their facilities are up by 47 per cent in the last year.

Some parents are even sedating their children to make them stop crying from hunger and fall asleep at night.