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HRW Cites Alarming IS-K Attacks On Afghan Minorities, Taliban Failures To Protect Them

Medical staff move a wounded youth on a stretcher outside a hospital in Kabul in April after two bomb blasts rocked a boys' school in a Shi'ite Hazara neighborhood, killing at least six people.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned of repeated attacks on religious minorities in Afghanistan by a local affiliate of the militant group Islamic State and the ruling Taliban's failure to protect those communities.

It points to "numerous brutal attacks against members of the Hazara community" by fighters loyal to the so-called Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) as victims "go to school, to work, or to pray, without a serious response from the Taliban authorities."

The IS-K has claimed responsibility for at least 13 attacks on Hazara, a mostly Shi'ite ethnic minority, and killed at least 700 people in those and several other attacks to which it is linked, HRW said in a September 6 report.

"The Taliban have an obligation to protect at-risk communities and assist the victims of attacks and their families," HRW quoted its Afghan researcher Fereshta Abbasi as saying.

The international community doesn't recognize the Taliban-led government and has consistently and bluntly criticized it for alienating Hazara and other religious, tribal, and ethnic minorities since it took over most of Afghanistan as the UN-backed government and U.S.-led international troops fled in mid-2021.

Analysts have long warned that the ultraradical IS-K is trying to undermine the Taliban's hard-line rule through violence against vulnerable groups and by launching attacks on neighboring countries from Afghanistan.

On September 5, the IS-K claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing near the Russian Embassy in Kabul that killed at least six people, including two embassy employees.

HRW listed multiple attacks claimed by IS-K including on a high school, mosques, and more random targets.

It cited a report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) as saying recent attacks on Shi'ite gatherings in Kabul alone have killed or injured more than 120 people.

Hazara have faced particularly intense and consistent discrimination from successive Afghan governments for over a century, HRW said.

HRW urges the IS-K, the Taliban, and others to comply with international humanitarian law. It says Taliban authorities should prosecute for grave abuses and "protect at-risk minorities...and ensure their rights to access education and worship without fear."

The rights group also says the Taliban should protect the rights of women and engage with at-risk communities and NGOs.

It also say foreign governments that engage with the Taliban should urge better minority protection from Kabul and all countries should "suspend forcible returns to Afghanistan and should look favorably on applications for asylum" and other forms of international protection.

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