HERAT: A gunman stormed a mosque in western Afghanistan and killed six people, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.

Interior ministry spokesman Abdul Mateen Qani said that “an unknown armed person shot at civilian worshippers in a mosque” in Herat province’s Guzara district on Monday at around 9pm.

“Six civilians were martyred and one civilian was injured,” he wrote on social media platform X early on Tuesday.

Locals said the mosque served the minority Shia community in a district just south of Herat city, and the imam and a three-year-old child were among those killed.

They also said a team of three gunmen staged the attack, contradicting the official account.

“One of them was outside and two of them came inside the mosque, shooting the worshippers,” said 60-year-old Ibrahim Akhlaqi, the brother of the slain imam. “It was in the middle of the prayers.” “Whoever was in the mosque has either been martyred or wounded,” added 23-year-old Sayed Murtaza Hussaini.

While no group has claimed the attack, the regional chapter of the Islamic State (IS) group is the largest security threat in Afghanistan and has frequently targeted Shia communities.

The Taliban government has pledged to protect religious and ethnic minorities since returning to power, but rights monitors say they’ve done little to make good on that promise.

The most notorious attack linked to IS since the Taliban takeover was in 2022, when at least 53 people were slain in the suicide bombing of an education centre.

Taliban have frequently given death tolls lower than other sources after bombings and gun attacks, in an apparent attempt to minimise security threats.

Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2024

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