Afghanistan: Bomb kills 63 at wedding in Kabul

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Afghanistan: Bomb kills 63 at wedding in Kabul

The wedding hall after the blastImage copyright AFP
Image caption The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack

Burials are taking place in the Afghan capital, Kabul after a bomb exploded at a wedding hall killing 63 people and wounding more than 180.

The Islamic State (IS) group said it was behind for the attack.

The blast happened on Saturday during a wedding ceremony at around 22:40 local time (18.10 GMT).

President Ashraf Ghani has condemned the attack, describing it as “barbaric”. He blamed the Taliban for “providing a platform to terrorists.”

The Taliban has denied involvement and condemned the attack.

What happened?

An IS statement said that one of its fighters blew himself up at a “large gathering” while others “detonated a parked explosives-laden vehicle” when emergency services arrived.

The Afghan interior ministry confirmed the death toll hours later. Pictures on social media showed bodies strewn across the wedding hall amid overturned chairs and tables.

Afghan weddings often include hundreds of guests who gather in large halls where the men are usually segregated from the women and children.

The groom who gave his name as Mirwais told local TV: “My family, my bride are in shock, they cannot even speak. My bride keeps fainting.

“I lost my brother, I lost my friends, I lost my relatives. I will never see happiness in my life again.”

“I can’t go to the funerals, I feel very weak … I know that this won’t be the last suffering for Afghans, the suffering will continue,” he said.

A funeral is held in KabulImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Burials are taking place in Kabul following the attack

The bride’s father told local media that 14 members of his family were killed in the attack.

Wedding guest Mohammad Farhag said he had been in the women’s section when he heard a huge explosion in the men’s area.

“Everyone ran outside shouting and crying,” he told AFP news agency.

“For about 20 minutes the hall was full of smoke. Almost everyone in the men’s section is either dead or wounded.”

Injured men receive treatment in hospitalImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption More than 180 people were injured in the bombing

A waiter at the hall, Sayed Agha Shah, said “everybody was running” after the blast.

“Several of our waiters were killed or wounded,” he added.

Media caption The floor of the wedding hall was covered in blood after the explosion

Writing on Twitter, president Ashraf Ghani said he had called a security meeting to “review and prevent such security lapses.”

Presentational white space

The explosion took place in the west of the city, mostly populated by Shia Muslims.

Sunni Muslim militants, including the Taliban and the Islamic State group, have repeatedly targeted Shia Hazara minorities in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A Taliban spokesman said the group “strongly condemned” the attack.

“There is no justification for such deliberate and brutal killings and targeting of women and children,” Zabiullah Mujaheed said in a text message to the media.

What’s the background?

The latest blast comes just 10 days after a huge bomb outside a Kabul police station killed at least 14 people and injured nearly 150.

The Taliban said they carried out that attack.

On Friday a brother of Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada was killed by a bomb planted in a mosque near the Pakistani city of Quetta.

No group has so far claimed that attack.

A source in Afghan intelligence told the BBC that Hibatullah Akhundzada had been due to attend prayers at the mosque and was probably the intended target.

Tensions in the country have been high even though the Taliban and the US, which has thousands of troops stationed in Afghanistan, are reportedly getting closer to announcing a peace deal.

A woman cries outside a hospital after the blastImage copyright EPA
Image caption Worried relatives gathered outside a hospital in Kabul on Saturday

How are Afghan peace talks progressing?

Taliban and US representatives have been holding peace talks in Qatar’s capital, Doha, and both sides have reported progress.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump tweeted that both sides were “looking to make a deal – if possible”.

The deal would include a phased US troop pullout in exchange for Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan will not be used by extremist groups to attack US targets.

The Taliban would also begin negotiations with an Afghan delegation on a framework for peace including an eventual ceasefire. The militants have been refusing to negotiate with the Afghan government until a timetable for the US withdrawal is agreed upon.

The Taliban now control more territory than at any point since they were forced from power in 2001.

Deadly blast targets Afghan president’s running mate

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL-JAZEERA NEWS)

 

Deadly blast targets Afghan president’s running mate

Gun battle ongoing after explosion hits the political office of Amrullah Saleh who may be among the wounded.

Deadly blast targets Afghan president's running mate

At least two people were killed and 25 others wounded on Sunday after the political office of the Afghan president’s running mate was hit by a large explosion and stormed by unknown attackers.

Nasrat Rahimi, an interior ministry spokesman, said the attack targeted the Green Trend party headquarters in the Afghan capital, Kabul, but denied reports that vice presidential candidate Amrullah Saleh was wounded.

The Reuters news agency reported Saleh was hit by shrapnel before being safely evacuated from the office. Photographs shared by a government official showed Saleh sitting in a garden with bloodstains on his right arm. He was surrounded by security guards.

Ferdous Faramarz, a spokesman for Kabul’s police chief, said the explosion was likely a suicide car bomb and the gunfight was still ongoing after the assailants stormed the building following the blast.

Health ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar said at least two people were killed and 25 wounded.

Complex attack

No group immediately claimed responsibility, but both the Taliban and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have carried out attacks in the past in Kabul.

Afghan soldiers battled gunmen in a four-storey building near the blast site for more than six hours, Rahimi said, adding about 40 civilians were rescued and all attackers killed.

It was unclear how many died in that shootout.

The violence underscored the risks facing the presidential election, which is scheduled for September 28 but has already been delayed twice this year.

Saleh is an uncompromising opponent of the Taliban and other hardline groups. President Ashraf Ghani, Saleh and more than a dozen other Afghan politicians launched their presidential campaign on Sunday.

Ghani said in a tweet: “My brother, true son of the Afghan soil and first VP candidate of my electoral team, Amrullah Saleh has survived a complex attack by enemies of the state. We are relieved and thank the almighty that the attack has failed.”

Earlier on Sunday, a buoyant Ghani kicked off his campaign by insisting “peace is coming” and pivotal talks with the Taliban would take place.

Saleh, who commands strong support among Afghanistan’s minority ethnic Tajiks, was not immediately available for comment.

War and peace

Elsewhere, a Taliban suicide bomber killed four police early on Sunday in an attack on a police station in the eastern Ghazni province, according to Ahmad Khan Serat, a spokesman for the provincial police.

Ghani is seeking a second term on promises of ending the 18-year war, but has been largely sidelined over the past year as the United States has negotiated directly with the Taliban.

The armed group, who effectively control about half the country, have continued to carry out daily attacks on Afghan security forces with civilians caught in the crossfire.

US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is currently visiting Kabul, has held several rounds of talks with the Taliban in recent months in a bid to end the US’s longest war.

The two sides appear to be closing in on an agreement in which the US would withdraw its forces in return for a pledge from the Taliban to keep the country from being used as a launchpad for global attacks.

The Taliban and the ISIL are sharply divided over ideology and tactics, with the Taliban largely confining its attacks to government targets and Afghan and international security forces.

The two armed groups have fought each other on a number of occasions, and the Taliban is still the larger and more imposing force.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

Afghanistan: Several Killed, Scores Wounded in Blast Outside Kabul University

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Several Killed, Scores Wounded in Blast Outside Kabul University

Friday, 19 July, 2019 – 11:30
Workers clean the site of an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, July 19, 2019. A powerful bomb exploded outside the gates of Kabul University in the Afghan capital on Friday, according to police and health officials. (AP Photo)
Asharq Al-Awsat
A deadly bomb exploded outside the Kabul University in the Afghan capital on Friday.

At least eight people were killed, while almost 33 were wounded, according to police and health officials, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

A number of the wounded are reported to be in critical condition.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest to target Kabul. However, both the Taliban and ISIS often stage large-scale bombings in the city.

The early blast also set two vehicles ablaze although it wasn’t clear if the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber or a remotely detonated bomb, stated Kabul police spokesman Ferdous Faramarz.

The casualty tolls were released by the Health Ministry spokesman, Dr. Wahidullah Mayar over Twitter.

“All the wounded patients were evacuated to our hospitals and have been receiving the required treatment,” he tweeted.

According to AP, after initial reports of six dead, Mayer said two people died of their wounds and that the number of wounded rose to 33, following reports from hospitals around the city.

The university compound houses several hostels where many students stay over the summer, attending classes and working on research projects.

In a 2016 attack, 13 people were killed, mostly students, and more than 40 people were wounded when militants attacked the American University in Kabul. In that attack, a car bomb exploded outside the university gates, followed by a blistering, hours-long attack in which gunmen roamed through the compound shooting at students and teachers.

Afghanistan: Senior Cleric Among Casualties in Kabul Mosque Blast

( THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Senior Cleric Among Casualties in Kabul Mosque Blast

Friday, 24 May, 2019 – 11:30
Afghan security forces keep watch at the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan December 18 ,2017. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
Asharq Al-Awsat
A bomb exploded in a mosque in the Afghan capital, Kabul, during Friday prayers, officials said, killing three people including a religious scholar and wounding at least 20 men who had gathered for worship.

The preacher, Samiullah Raihan, was a supporter of the Western-backed Afghan government which Taliban militants are trying to bring down. He was also a member of the National Ulema Council, Afghanistan’s top Muslim clerical body.

Firdaws Faramarz, a police spokesman, said explosives were apparently placed near the altar of the Al-Taqwa mosque, a place used by the mosque leader to initiate the prayers.

Jan Agha, a district police official, said the bomb was apparently planted in the microphone used by the mosque leader.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but the Taliban and ISIS militants regularly stage attacks in the capital.

The explosion hit at a time when dozens of men had gathered for prayers. The death toll could rise, said a second official.

Kabul suicide bomber kills dozens at gathering of clerics

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Kabul suicide bomber kills dozens at gathering of clerics

An injured person is taken to hospital in KabulImage copyright EPA
Image caption This is one of the deadliest attacks in Kabul in recent months

A suicide bomb attack on a gathering of religious scholars in the Afghan capital, Kabul, has killed at least 43 people, officials say.

At least 83 more were injured as the clerics met at the Uranus hall to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.

It is one of the deadliest attacks in Kabul in recent months.

No-one has admitted responsibility for the blast, but the Islamic State group has said it was behind most of the recent deadliest attacks.

Continuing attacks by the Taliban have also stepped up pressure on security forces.

Basir Mujahid, a spokesman for Kabul police, said: “Hundreds of Islamic scholars and their followers had gathered to recite verses from the holy Koran to observe the Eid Milad-un-Nabi festival at the private banquet hall.”

A manager at the hall said the suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of the gathering.

1TV News quoted the health ministry as saying that 24 of the wounded are severely injured.

Map

The Islamic State group said it was behind two attacks in Kabul in August that killed dozens of people.

Dozens were also killed across the country as voters cast ballots in the nation’s parliamentary elections in October.

However, there have been recent moves to try to end decades of war.

This month, Taliban militants for the first time attended an international meeting, hosted by Russia, to discuss the matter.

The Taliban’s power and reach have surged since foreign combat troops left Afghanistan in 2014.

But the Islamic State in Afghanistan group, sometimes known as Islamic State Khorasan, also remains highly active.

Civilian deaths and injuries have have hit record highs. Casualty figures for the conflict, which began in 2001, are the highest since the UN started keeping records in 2009.

Chart showing total civilian casualties in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2017 with steady rise until 2016 and slight decrease in 2017

Only Believers Of Islam Can Stop Islamic Terrorism: Nothing Else Can

TODAY THE SOUL CRIES 

(FIRST PUBLISHED ON January 27th, 2018)

The news today out of Kabul Afghanistan is both sad and sickening. The Islamic murder group who calls themselves the Taliban had one of their members drive an ambulance into a highly populated facility that was loaded with explosives and blew himself up. The saddest part is that this child of Satan has killed at least 95 innocent people along with himself. Just in this past week in Afghanistan there was an attack on a hotel that left 22 people dead, this attack was claimed by another Islamic murder group that call themselves ISIS. There was even an attack on an NGO group called Save The Children, I am not sure of the death toll in that attack nor which Demonic group took ‘credit’ for it.

 

According to the CIA Fact Book the U.S. government has spent over 2 Trillion American tax payer dollars in Afghanistan since 2001, my question is, for what? Have the American soldiers along with other Allied soldiers killed thousands of Taliban fighters plus some from other groups fighters, yes. Have many hundreds of ‘Western’ soldiers been killed and wounded, yes. Have at least a few thousand innocent civilians been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, yes. Yet for many years, including right up till now, the government of Afghanistan and the U.S. Government has been trying to have talks with the Taliban to create a ‘shared government’. A government where leaders of the Taliban will join with the civilian Government to mesh into one and form as one. The U.S. Government has been trying to broker this deal for at least ten years now, folks, the whole concept is insane. These attempts are no more than an attempt at ‘saving face’ for the U.S. Government via giving them a ‘way out’ of this quagmire. The Taliban, if they really had an interest in ‘sharing’ governance of Afghanistan they could have done this years ago. The current Leaders of the Civilian government know very well that if the Taliban is welcomed in they will quickly turn on the civilians Legislators and murder them all. Another question I have to bring up is about that 2 trillion dollars, where did it all go? Two trillion dollars could have totally and completely rebuilt the entire infrastructure of the U.S., so, where has all of that money gone? To me it seems that the majority has gone toward military actions, planes, tanks, bombs, soldiers and the such. I have heard reports several times that about 90% of the civilians in Afghanistan don’t even have one change of clothes, why folks? If we wanted to win the hearts of the civilians of the country we should have invested a whole lot of that money in their infrastructure, making sure they all had electricity, clean water, sanitation, a reliable food chain and jobs.

 

Whether the location is Afghanistan, Sudan, Nigeria, Libya or the Gaza Strip it is my belief that there is only one way that the world will ever be rid of ‘Islamic Terrorism’ and that is if the believers of Islam shut it down themselves. I know it has been the case for about 1,400 years that the Islamic faith has had a lot of infighting between their two main factions, the Sunni’s and the Shiite’s and that during this 1,400 years there have probably been as many or more Muslim and Persian people killed as there have been of Westerners killed. One would think that at some point this madness would stop but there appears to be no end of the innocent bloodshed being stopped. It is my belief that there is only one way that there can ever be an end to this madness and that is if the believers of Islam themselves decide that they have had enough. The ‘innocent’ family members, if they are indeed innocent must turn in their own family members and their own Iman if they are preaching hate and violence. Groups like President Abbas of the PLO and the leaders of Hamas must stop giving prize money to the families of ‘Martyr’s’ who kill other people. This theology is morally sick, the people of Islam themselves must shut it down because the Western World can not do it on their own. Until the rest of the world sees that the extreme mass majority of the Islamic believers are doing exactly this, how can the rest of the world believe that the extreme mass majority of Islamic believers are not complicit in this evil?

 

 

 

Afghan Clerics Label Suicide Attacks a Sin. Then, a Bomber Strikes Their Meeting.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)

 

Afghan Clerics Label Suicide Attacks a Sin. Then, a Bomber Strikes Their Meeting.

Top clerics and religious scholars also declare country’s 17-year war illegal under Islamic law

Afghan security forces guard the site of the attack in Kabul. At least 14 people were killed when a suicide bomber hit a meeting of religious leaders.
Afghan security forces guard the site of the attack in Kabul. At least 14 people were killed when a suicide bomber hit a meeting of religious leaders. PHOTO: OMAR SOBHANI/REUTERS

KABUL, Afghanistan—A suspected Islamic State suicide bomber struck a meeting of Afghanistan’s top clerics and religious scholars in the capital on Monday, killing 14 people shortly after the large gathering declared such suicide attacks a sin and the country’s 17-year war illegal under Islamic law.

The Afghan branch of Islamic State said through its Amaq news agency that it carried out the attack, which occurred as the meeting of the Afghan Ulema Council was adjourning and attendees were departing the assembly grounds. The Taliban, Afghanistan’s largest insurgency, denied any involvement in the bombing.

Islamic State’s affiliate here, which has claimed responsibility for a spate of attacks in Kabul in recent months, is under intense military pressure from U.S. Special Forces and from stepped-up U.S. airstrikes in eastern Nangarhar province, its Afghan stronghold.

One of those injured in the attack, center. The gathering of clerics and religious scholars declared suicide attacks a sin.
One of those injured in the attack, center. The gathering of clerics and religious scholars declared suicide attacks a sin. PHOTO: REUTERS

A senior Afghan security official said 17 people were also injured in the bombing at one of the exits from the meeting grounds, near Kabul Polytechnic University in western Kabul.

Sayed Ehsan Tahiri, spokesman for the government’s High Peace Council, said the meeting was attended by some 3,000 religious figures from across the Central Asian nation. He said he escaped the blast by a matter of seconds. “God has given me another life,” he said.

Shortly before the attack, the convocation had issued an Islamic ruling, or fatwa, declaring suicide attacks forbidden.

“Suicide attacks, explosions for killing people, division, insurgency, different types of corruption, robbery, kidnapping and any type of violence are counted as big sins in Islam and are against the order of the Almighty Allah,” they said.

Suicide bombings are a relatively recent phenomenon in Afghanistan, having been rejected as a form of combat during the uprising against the occupation of Soviet forces in the 1980s and the takeover by Taliban forces in the mid-1990s.

Rather, they became a feature of the Afghan war in the mid-2000s, as the tactics used by Islamist militants against U.S. forces in Iraq rebounded here.

The clerical gathering also denounced the 17-year war in Afghanistan as illegal under Islamic law, calling it nothing but “shedding the blood of Muslims,” and urged the Taliban to take up the Kabul government’s offer of unconditional peace talks.

In perhaps the most public peace overture since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to remove the Taliban from power, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in late February offered political recognition to the Taliban in exchange for a stop to the fighting.

The Taliban hasn’t replied formally to the bid. It has said it will only negotiate with the U.S. since, it says, America is the main engine of the war and the Kabul government is illegitimate.

Write to Craig Nelson at [email protected]

Appeared in the June 5, 2018, print edition as ‘Afghan Clerics Targeted in Deadly Bombing.’

Only Believers Of Islam Can Stop Islamic Terrorism: Nothing Else Can

TODAY THE SOUL CRIES 

(FIRST PUBLISHED ON January 27th, 2018)

The news today out of Kabul Afghanistan is both sad and sickening. The Islamic murder group who calls themselves the Taliban had one of their members drive an ambulance into a highly populated facility that was loaded with explosives and blew himself up. The saddest part is that this child of Satan has killed at least 95 innocent people along with himself. Just in this past week in Afghanistan there was an attack on a hotel that left 22 people dead, this attack was claimed by another Islamic murder group that call themselves ISIS. There was even an attack on an NGO group called Save The Children, I am not sure of the death toll in that attack nor which Demonic group took ‘credit’ for it.

 

According to the CIA Fact Book the U.S. government has spent over 2 Trillion American tax payer dollars in Afghanistan since 2001, my question is, for what? Have the American soldiers along with other Allied soldiers killed thousands of Taliban fighters plus some from other groups fighters, yes. Have many hundreds of ‘Western’ soldiers been killed and wounded, yes. Have at least a few thousand innocent civilians been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, yes. Yet for many years, including right up till now, the government of Afghanistan and the U.S. Government has been trying to have talks with the Taliban to create a ‘shared government’. A government where leaders of the Taliban will join with the civilian Government to mesh into one and form as one. The U.S. Government has been trying to broker this deal for at least ten years now, folks, the whole concept is insane. These attempts are no more than an attempt at ‘saving face’ for the U.S. Government via giving them a ‘way out’ of this quagmire. The Taliban, if they really had an interest in ‘sharing’ governance of Afghanistan they could have done this years ago. The current Leaders of the Civilian government know very well that if the Taliban is welcomed in they will quickly turn on the civilians Legislators and murder them all. Another question I have to bring up is about that 2 trillion dollars, where did it all go? Two trillion dollars could have totally and completely rebuilt the entire infrastructure of the U.S., so, where has all of that money gone? To me it seems that the majority has gone toward military actions, planes, tanks, bombs, soldiers and the such. I have heard reports several times that about 90% of the civilians in Afghanistan don’t even have one change of clothes, why folks? If we wanted to win the hearts of the civilians of the country we should have invested a whole lot of that money in their infrastructure, making sure they all had electricity, clean water, sanitation, a reliable food chain and jobs.

 

Whether the location is Afghanistan, Sudan, Nigeria, Libya or the Gaza Strip it is my belief that there is only one way that the world will ever be rid of ‘Islamic Terrorism’ and that is if the believers of Islam shut it down themselves. I know it has been the case for about 1,400 years that the Islamic faith has had a lot of infighting between their two main factions, the Sunni’s and the Shiite’s and that during this 1,400 years there have probably been as many or more Muslim and Persian people killed as there have been of Westerners killed. One would think that at some point this madness would stop but there appears to be no end of the innocent bloodshed being stopped. It is my belief that there is only one way that there can ever be an end to this madness and that is if the believers of Islam themselves decide that they have had enough. The ‘innocent’ family members, if they are indeed innocent must turn in their own family members and their own Iman if they are preaching hate and violence. Groups like President Abbas of the PLO and the leaders of Hamas must stop giving prize money to the families of ‘Martyr’s’ who kill other people. This theology is morally sick, the people of Islam themselves must shut it down because the Western World can not do it on their own. Until the rest of the world sees that the extreme mass majority of the Islamic believers are doing exactly this, how can the rest of the world believe that the extreme mass majority of Islamic believers are not complicit in this evil?

 

 

 

Kabul Afghanistan: Bomb In Ambulance Kills At Least 95

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN)An attacker driving an ambulance packed with explosives detonated them Saturday in the Afghan capital of Kabul, leaving 95 people dead and 158 others injured, Afghan officials said.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mojahid claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes a week after militants stormed a Kabul hotel.
The blast occurred around 12:45 p.m. local time after the vehicle passed through a security checkpoint, Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told CNN.
Police identified the attacker at a second checkpoint but couldn’t stop him before he detonated the explosives near the old Ministry of the Interior building, Rahimi said.
The injured have been taken to hospitals across the Afghan capital, said spokesman Wahid Majrooh of the Ministry of Public Health, who confirmed the casualties. He said the toll was likely to rise.
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A wounded man is helped near the blast scene Saturday in Kabul.

Afghanistan’s Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah, condemned the attack, describing it as “insane, inhuman, heinous and a warcrime,” via his official Twitter account.
He also called on the international community to “take further action” against “state-sponsored terrorism.”
“Our priority and focus right now is to help those in need and provide the best treatment for those wounded,” he wrote. “This is the moment when we all need to stand together and punch our enemy hard. This is enough!”
The blast comes a week after gunmen attacked the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, killing at least 22 people during a 12-hour standoff with security forces.
Of those killed, 14 were foreign nationals — including four Americans — and eight were Afghans, according to the Ministry of Interior. Six gunmen were killed by Afghan security forces. The Taliban also claimed responsibility for the assault.
ISIS militants on Wednesday attacked the offices of British aid agency Save the Children in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, killing at least four people and injuring dozens.

Iran Recruits Afghans to Defend Assad, their Numbers Are a ‘Military Secret’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Iran Recruits Afghans to Defend Assad, their Numbers is a ‘Military Secret’

Wednesday, 25 October, 2017 – 08:15
Syrian pro-regime forces hold a position in Aleppo’s Sheikh Saeed district, on December 12, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / GEORGE OURFALIAN)
Kabul – London – Asharq Al-Awsat

Fleeing grinding poverty and unemployment, thousands of Afghan Shi’ites have been recruited by Iran to defend the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad.

“For me it was just about money,” Shams, a former fighter, told Agence France Presse.

Hurman Rights Watch says the Iranians refuse to provide accurate figures, but estimates there are nearly 15,000 Afghans fighting for Fatemiyoun.

Shams, a 25-year-old member of the Hazara ethnic group, went to Syria twice in 2016 to fight in a conflict that has now been raging for more than six years.

“I went there (Iran) because I was jobless and it was a way to get money for my family,” said Shams.

“My idea was to find a job in Iran. I had no plan to go to fight in Syria but after a month of being jobless I decided to go.

“They were encouraging us saying ‘you will be a freedom fighter and if you return to Iran alive you can stay with a 10-year residence permit’.”

Afghan Shi’ites are given 1.5 million toman (about $450) to register at a recruitment center for the Fatemiyoun, Shams said. Once they have signed up they receive three million toman a month, a fortune for many poor Afghans.

Shams’ first mission was in June 2016 in the Syrian capital of Damascus, where he was assigned to protect a barracks for two months.

He went back to the country in September and was deployed to Aleppo, where he was given his first AK-47 after receiving rudimentary weapons training from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

On the front line of the battle between ISIS militants and Al-Nusra Front group, Shams said he found himself caught up in an intense and deadly battle.

“In Aleppo we faced an ambush — out of 100 fighters we lost almost all of them. There were 15 of us left alive,” Shams said.

“The bodies were sent back to Iran and the families in Afghanistan held funeral ceremonies in mosques without a coffin or grave.”

Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Atlantic Council, estimates more than 760 Afghans have been killed in Syria since September 2013.

The number of Afghans fighting for the Fatemiyoun is a “military secret,” said Ramazan Bashardost, a Hazara member of parliament in Kabul.

“They are used by the Iranian government, which treats them like slaves,” he said.

“The sorrow, pain and hunger of the people is not a major concern of the Afghan government,” he added.