Mohammad Dawood Muzammil, a Taliban-appointed governor of Balkh province in northern Afghanistan, was slain in an Islamic State suicide attack at his office today.
The targetted attack of the provincial governor, in which one other person also died, was deemed to be one of the most high-level attacks to have taken place since the Taliban took control of the embattled country in the summer of 2021.
An Islamic State fighter of the IS-K regional affiliate lay in wait for Muzammil at his official office before storming towards him and activating a suicide belt, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, who has translated a statement from the terror group’s Amaq news agency. The attack took place on the second floor of his office in the provincial capital of Balkh, Mazar-i-Sharif.
One day prior to the attack, Muzammil had held a meeting with leading officials from the Taliban government who had made a visit to Balkh from Kabul.
In an interview with AFP, a local spokesperson for the Afghan police, Asif Waziri, said the following, “Two people, including Mohammad Dawood Muzammil, the governor of Balkh, have been killed in an explosion this morning. It was a suicide attack. We don’t have information as to how the suicide bomber reached the office of the governor.
Two other people were also wounded in the attack, and one of them, a man named Khairuddin, was able to provide a witness account to AFP about what took place from his hospital bed in Mazar-i-Sharif.
“The explosion happened moments after the governor arrived in his office. There was a bang. I fell to the ground. I saw a friend lose a hand in the blast.”
A tweet from Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed that Muzammil has been “martyred in an explosion by the enemies of Islam”. After expressing his regrets, he also claimed that “an investigation is underway”.
Following the attack, Taliban authorities beefed up security at the site. They barred journalists from taking any pictures of the blast site, according to an AFP journalist working on the ground.
Originally, the Taliban had appointed Muzammil as the regional governor of Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan. There, he waged war on local IS-K militants. Last year, he switched positions and became the regional governor of Balkh.
According to the Taliban government, Muzammil had held a meeting with two deputy prime ministers and a plethora of other senior officials as they paid a visit to Balkh on the day before the attack to review a significant irrigation project taking place in northern Afghanistan.
From Balkh Province to Kabul, IS-K Attacks are on the Rise Across Afghanistan
The killing of Mohammad Dawood Muzammil marks the second high-profile incident between the Taliban and the Islamic State in Afghanistan within the space of a month. It was recently revealed that the Taliban had killed Qari Fateh, an IS intelligence and operations chief, during an operation in Kabul.
Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021, the country has seen the closest thing to peace in four decades. However, the Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State (IS-K) is currently the biggest security risk and the most significant threat to Taliban rule.
The Islamic State and the ruling Taliban both adhere to a strict Islamist ideology centred around Sunni Islam, but their overall missions are very different. The mission of the Taliban is to rule Afghanistan as an independent Islamic country. The Islamic State, on the other hand, wish to establish a global ”caliphate”.
IS-K has repeatedly launched a series of deadly attacks against a plethora of targets ranging from Afghan civilians, government institutions, foreign visitors, and diplomatic missions.
Whilst Kabul has been the epicentre for many of the attacks and has seen some of the deadliest take place, Balkh province has been heavily hit by the Jihadist group too.