AW’s analysis of claimed ISKP attacks found an increase in activity in October, with targeting of Shia civilians resumed and the renewed use of simple gun attacks.
Disclaimer: The following analysis is based on the reporting period of January 2023-October 2023, but for reference, the ISKP claimed another attack on November 7th, near the Barchi Radiology Centre in Kabul. This fits with the trends we have observed, outlined below.
Increased ISKP activity and targeting of Kabul and Kunar
AW’s monitoring of ISKP claimed attacks found that the group totalled 18 claimed attacks from January-October 2023. The ISKP claimed six attacks in March 2023, but no attacks were claimed by the group in April and May, and between June 2023 and September 2023, the number of incidents claimed fluctuated between one and two per month. The four attacks the ISKP claimed in October 2023, in three provinces, thus signalled an increase in the group’s activity.
Though ISKP targeted Taliban members and Shia civilians in multiple provinces of Afghanistan including Badakhshan, Baghlan, Balkh, Herat, Kabul, Kunar, and Nangarhar, attacks have been concentrated in the provinces of Kabul and Kunar, registering six and five attacks respectively. The graph below displays both the number of ISKP claimed attacks between January 2023 and October 2023, and the recent prominence of Kunar and Kabul as target locations. Whilst Kabul suffered four attacks earlier in the year – two in January and two in March, between April and July there were no claimed attacks in the province. Kunar, on the other hand, saw no ISKP activity prior to July 2023, but has seen five claimed attacks between August and October 2023.
Figure: Number of ISKP claimed attacks in Afghan provinces per month between January 2023 and October 2023.
Attack methods: the resurgence of gunfire
AW also noticed a variation in the method the ISKP used to carry out these attacks. Explosives appear to remain ISKP’s weapon of choice, but gunfire for the targeting of individuals has seen a clear resurgence since July 2023.
The graph below compares the use of explosives with the use of gunfire in ISKP attacks in Afghanistan from January 2023 to July 2023. The ISKP use of explosives has remained relatively stable, being used in 11 attacks throughout the year to date: two in January, four in March, two in June, one in August and two in October.
The ISKP’s use of gunfire was instead more sparse during the first half of the year, being observed only twice, in March 2023, and then not at all between April-June 2023. Between July 2023 and October 2023 however, the number of gunfire attacks increased, with one attack in July, August, and September, and two in October, all of which targeted Taliban members, and reportedly took place in Kunar province.
Figure: Number of claimed ISKP attacks in Afghanistan using gunfire versus explosives between
January 2023 and October 2023.
Targeting of Shia groups resumed
The ISKP focused mostly on Taliban members in their attacks between January 2023 and October 2023; claiming that 14 out of their 18 attacks during this time period targeted Taliban members, whilst only three targeted Shia civilians, and one targeted employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The graph below reflects the ISKP’s renewed interest in targeting the Shia population this October, claiming two attacks that killed dozens of Shias, one that targeted a mosque in Baghlan, and one that targeted a sports centre in Kabul’s PD13, a Hazara majority area.
Figure: Number of ISKP claimed attacks in Afghanistan targeting various groups, between January 2023 and October 2023.
Return to smaller attacks targeting Taliban members and the Shia population
AW observed a shift in ISKP attacks since May 2022, from small scale explosions targeting the Taliban and Shia population, to less frequent, more complex attacks on high-value targets, such as ministries and mosques attended by senior Taliban figures and associates. One such example was the June 2023 suicide explosion which targeted the memorial service for Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi, the Taliban’s slain deputy governor of Badakshan, Faizabad City. More recently, AW has observed the ISKP appearing to return to smaller attacks targeting Taliban members and the Shia population that were seen pre-May 2022. AW will continue to monitor claimed ISKP attacks in Afghanistan.