The Islamic State claimed responsibility on Wednesday for a suicide bombing attack on the funeral for a former police commander in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. The attack killed at least 26 people and injured over 60.
The suicide bomber struck as mourners were assembling to pray for the police commander, who died of natural causes.
“A number of high-ranking officials and politicians were present at the funeral and the official said the death toll is likely to rise further,” Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reported, quoting a spokesman for the provincial governor. One of the victims killed in the attack was reportedly a member of the Nangarhar provincial council.
IS-Khorasan, the Islamic State operation in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attack in an online communique. The group also claimed two bomb attacks on a convoy in Kabul, which it described as an effort to assassinate a high-ranking intelligence official.
Voice of America News (VOA) said there has been no official confirmation of ISIS involvement in the bombings as of yet, but an international counterterrorism official said the claims are a sign of the Islamic State’s “resilience” in Afghanistan after a series of setbacks that included the capture of several senior ISIS commanders earlier this week, including IS-Khorasan leader Zia-ul-Haq.
Nangarhar province, where the funeral bombing occurred, was an ISIS stronghold before months of successful raids against the terrorist group cut its manpower in half and drove the survivors into the mountainous Kunar province. The high-profile bloodbath of attacking a funeral — a common IS-Khorasan tactic for achieving mass bombing casualties — was seen by some analysts as a way of announcing that the Islamic State is returning to Khorasan in force.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the Nangarhar bombing on Tuesday along with the horrifying attack on a maternity ward in Kabul, an action no group has yet taken responsibility for, although the Afghan government appears convinced it was the work of the Taliban.
Pompeo said the two terror attacks were “particularly appalling” because they occurred during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and during the global coronavirus pandemic.
“Terrorists who attack mourners lining up for prayer at a funeral are only seeking to tear apart the bonds that hold families and communities together, but they will never succeed. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families of both attacks, as well as the brave Afghan security forces who defended against the terrorists,” he said.
“The Taliban and the Afghan government should cooperate to bring the perpetrators to justice. As long as there is no sustained reduction in violence and insufficient progress towards a negotiated political settlement, Afghanistan will remain vulnerable to terrorism,” Pompeo added.