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Senior Taliban Leader Killed in Afghanistan Office Blast

The governor of Afghanistan’s Balkh province, Mohammad Dawood Muzammil, has been killed in an explosion at his office on Thursday, 9th March 2023. He was the highest-ranking official to be killed since the Taliban returned to power in 2021.

While violence, in general, has significantly decreased since the Taliban took control, there have been a series of attacks on prominent pro-Taliban figures and security forces.

What is the Reason Behind the Blast?

The cause of the blast remains unknown, according to local police, and no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted that the governor had been “martyred” in an explosion by the “enemies of Islam”. According to reports, an investigation is currently underway.

Muzammil, who previously served as the governor of the eastern province of Nangarhar, was known for leading the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants. He was transferred to the Balkh province last October. At least one other person was killed in the attack, and several others were reported to have been injured. There are unconfirmed reports that the attack was a suicide blast.

Key Opponents of the Taliban

The explosion occurred a day after provincial Taliban authorities claimed they had killed eight “rebels and kidnappers” in Mazar-e Sharif, the capital of Balkh province. However, the Taliban did not specify which group they referred to as rebels.

Since last year, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has become the biggest security challenge for the Taliban government. The group has carried out attacks targeting Afghan civilians, religious minorities, foreigners, and foreign interests. The goals of ISIL differ from those of the Taliban, with the former seeking to establish a global Islamic “caliphate” instead of ruling an independent country like its rivals.

The Balkh province, including Mazar-i-Sharif, has been hit by several attacks, some of which have been claimed by ISIL. In January 2023, a suicide bomber detonated himself near the foreign ministry in Kabul, killing at least ten people. The group claimed responsibility for this attack.

Previously, it claimed 2 attacks in December 2022. The first was at a hotel popular among businessmen in Kabul. A gunman injured at least 5 Chinese nationals. The second attack was on Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul that Islamabad condemned as an “assassination attempt” against its ambassador.

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