Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned that the attacks against Afghanistan's Shi'ite minority perpetrated by an affiliate of the Islamic State group amount to crimes against humanity.
Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-K) has claimed responsibility for some of the worst recent attacks in Afghanistan, including suicide bombings among Shi'ite worshippers from the Hazara minority group at mosques in Kunduz and Kandahar provinces that killed almost 150 people earlier this month.
The group also carried out the August 29 suicide bombing at the Kabul airport that killed 170 Afghans, mostly civilians.
“The IS-K armed group has repeatedly carried out devastating attacks that appear designed to spread terror and inflict maximum suffering particularly on Afghanistan’s Hazara community,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at the New York-based HRW.
“The numerous attacks targeting Hazaras amount to crimes against humanity, and those responsible should be brought to justice,” HRW said in a statement on October 25.
The mainly Shi’ite Hazara community is Afghanistan's third-largest ethnic group. Its members have faced long-term discrimination and persecution in predominantly Sunni Afghanistan.
IS-K considers Shi'ite Muslims to be apostates. The group also opposes Afghanistan's Sunni Taliban rulers, who took over most of the war-wracked country in August amid the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces after two decades of conflict.
“IS-K’s horrific attacks on civilians have not abated since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and appear to be increasing,” Gossman said. “The Taliban authorities need to urgently adopt measures to protect religious minority communities from attack.”
The Taliban has played down the threat from the Islamic State's affiliate, but repeated attacks have tarnished the group's claim to have brought peace to Afghanistan after decades of war.