A prominent cleric and an outspoken critic of the Islamic State, Sheikh Rahimullah Haqqani has been killed in a bomb explosion at a madrasa in Kabul, the Taliban said.
Taliban spokesperson Bilal Karimi on Thursday expressed regret for his death.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (known as ISIL and ISIS both) has claimed responsibility for the attack. Reuters, citing four Taliban sources, said the attacker – who did not have a leg — had hidden explosives in the prosthetic limb.
Late on Thursday, ISIL took responsibility for the attack through its telegram channels. It claimed the assailant had detonated an explosive vest inside the scholar’s office.
Haqqani survived two previous attacks including a blast in Peshawar in October 2020 carried out by the ISIL, which killed at least seven people. The attack on him happened when he was teaching at a madrasa in Peshawar. A suicide bomber walked into his class and blew himself up, killing 10 boys.
Haqqani was a supporter of Afghanistan’s Taliban government and an outspoken critic of the Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-K), a regional offshoot of ISIL that operates in Afghanistan and opposes the Taliban.
He had a substantial following in the east of Afghanistan, his home region. Haqqani was known for his bold opinion — for instance, he opposed the predominant ideology of the region, Salafism, which is a fundamentalist Islamic school of thought followed, among others, by ISIS.
There are unconfirmed reports that the attack took place in an area called Shash Darak. This is part of the Green Zone in Kabul. It is heavily guarded and also has blast-proof walls. The Taliban checks everyone coming in and exiting with the help of sensitive security installations. A fatal attack in this supposed fort could be a major blow to the security in Kabul.
Since last year’s takeover, the Taliban’s ability to maintain law and order in the country has coming under question. In the past few months alone, attacks against Taliban leaders, fighters and ethnic minorities like Shiite Hazaras have risen considerably.
Afghanistan has witnessed more than 120 casualties as a result of several blasts all over the country. This figure was disclosed by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan in a tweet, last week.
Haqqani was in the news for issuing a “fatwa” (theological decree) in support of female education, a very divisive issue in Afghanistan.
In an interview with BBC‘s Secunder Kermani earlier this year, the cleric declared that Afghan women ought to be allowed access to education as the sharia law did not prevent it.