The Taliban governor of Afghanistan’s Balkh province, known for fighting Islamic State (IS) jihadists, was killed in a suicide attack at his office on Thursday, officials said.
The killing, a day after he met top government officials visiting from Kabul, makes Mohammad Dawood Muzammil one of the highest-ranking figures killed since the Taliban stormed back to power in 2021.
Violence across Afghanistan has dramatically dropped since the Taliban seized control, but the security situation has again deteriorated, with IS claiming several deadly attacks.
“Two people, including Mohammad Dawood Muzammil, the governor of Balkh, have been killed in an explosion this morning,” a local police spokesperson, Asif Waziri, told AFP, adding that the blast happened on the second floor of his office, in the provincial capital Mazar-i-Sharif. “It was a suicide attack. We don’t have information as to how the suicide bomber reached the office of the governor,” he said, adding that two people had been wounded.
Authorities deployed extra security at the governorate, which forbade journalists from taking photos, an AFP correspondent reported from near the blast site.
Muzammil was “martyred in an explosion by the enemies of Islam”, a government spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, tweeted.
Muzammil was initially appointed governor of the eastern province of Nangarhar, where he led the fight against IS jihadists, before being moved to Balkh last year.
On Wednesday, he met two deputy prime ministers and other senior officials visiting Balkh to review a large irrigation project in northern Afghanistan, a government statement said.
Since last year, IS has emerged as the Taliban government’s biggest security challenge, attacking Afghan civilians as well as foreigners and foreign interests.
There have been several attacks in Balkh, including in Mazar-i-Sharif last year, some claimed by IS.
In January, at least 10 people were killed by a suicide bomber near the foreign ministry in Kabul, an attack IS claimed.
The Taliban and IS share an austere Sunni Islamist ideology, but IS is fighting to establish a global “caliphate” while the Taliban has the more inward-looking goal of ruling an independent Afghanistan.
In December, at least five Chinese nationals were wounded when gunmen stormed a hotel popular with businesspeople in Kabul. That raid was claimed by IS, as was an attack on Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul that month that Islamabad denounced as an “assassination attempt” against its ambassador.
Two Russian embassy staff members were killed in a suicide bombing outside their mission in September, another attack claimed by IS.