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ISIS claims responsibility for series of blasts in Afghanistan

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Explosions across Afghanistan have killed more than 10 people. That's according to a count by the Associated Press. And ISIS claimed responsibility for at least one of these attacks. NPR's Diaa Hadid is here. She covers Afghanistan from her base in neighboring Pakistan. Diaa, welcome.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: When and where did these attacks take place?

HADID: So these attacks began early morning Kabul time, and they continued throughout the day. So we've had details filtering in since then, and we understand that the most serious incident so far was in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif where there was an explosion inside a mosque. It's a well-known historic mosque in the city's bazaar - two stories just a few dozen feet from a famous shrine for which the city is named. Now, initial reports said the mosque was Shiite (inaudible). But one resident told NPR that Muslims of all sects prayed in the mosque. They even used different corners of the mosque to pray and to distinguish themselves - quite a unique mosque, quite a historic mosque. The resident we spoke to said the mosque was crowded when that blast struck.

ISIS appears to have taken responsibility in a message they posted on Telegram and which was shared by ISIS experts on Twitter. So that was one of the blasts. Now, there was another one in Kabul. Two children were wounded in a roadside bombing. Residents in a Shiite area called Dasht-e-Barchi said there was a blast outside their school. It's unclear if there were any injuries in that one. And there seems to have been another blast in the northern city of Kunduz. Local media outlet TOLO said four people were killed there. So it's been a pretty chaotic, pretty bad day.

INSKEEP: Yeah. How does this fit in with violence on other days in Afghanistan?

HADID: So this week has been particularly bad. Two days ago, there was attack on a school and an educational institute. More than six people were killed. There was no claim of responsibility either for that attack. But it occurred in that Shiite area of west Kabul called Dasht-e-Barchi. And that's an area that has been battered by ISIS in the past because they're targeting Shiites. And in Afghanistan, the easiest Shiites to target are ethnic Hazaras.

INSKEEP: I feel we should explain this for people who are catching up here. The Taliban are Sunni Muslims, a particular extreme strand of Sunni Islam. And there is a Shiite minority in Afghanistan that has been vulnerable, especially to the Taliban, for many, many years.

HADID: That's correct. They've also been targeted by ISIS. They've also been targeted by unknown militants, militants who haven't claimed responsibility for their attacks. One of the worst attacks in decades in Kabul was an unknown attack undertaken by militants last year that targeted girls leaving a secondary school. Around 85 girls died in that attack. It's never been claimed, but it was clearly targeting, again, Shiite Hazara girls. But one of the really interesting and tragic things is that there was actually a lull in violence in Afghanistan. After the Taliban took power, violence had really diminished. And so Afghans, for whatever other humanitarian crisis they've been experiencing right now, they actually were enjoying some relative security. Now, that, too, has been stripped away. And these bombings in some way seem to be a message to the Taliban that they're not going to be able to enforce security across the country.

INSKEEP: NPR's Diaa Hadid, thanks for your insights.

HADID: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.