Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement on Friday that the attack on Imam Zaman mosque in Kabul city, which killed over 30 people, is a war crime.
“(This) is a serious violation of the laws of war, and an apparent war crime,” Human Rights Watch said.
The attack, which lasted for over four hours, in the Qala-e-Najara neighborhood of Khair Khana in Kabul, left over 30 people dead but wounded an estimated 80.
The attack started at about 1pm local time on Friday afternoon when a group of three or four attackers entered the mosque. At least 200 people had been in attendance for Friday prayers at the time – including women.
The attackers gained entry after throwing hand grenades at security guards at the entrance to the mosque.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack.
“An attack on a place of worship during prayers is a horrific crime meant to maximize civilian deaths,” said Patricia Gossman, senior Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“This contemptible act against a religious minority, claimed by ISIS’s (Daesh) Afghan affiliate, is a grim reminder that civilians bear the brunt of Afghanistan’s war.”
The statement said that the attack is similar to others that Daesh “affiliates have committed over the past year targeting Afghanistan’s Shia minority. On August 1, an attack claimed by ISKP (Daesh Afghanistan) on a Shia mosque in Herat killed at least 20 and wounded more than 30.”
“Since July 2016, sectarian suicide attacks have injured or killed hundreds of members of the Shia community in Afghanistan. This wave of attacks on Shia is largely attributable to the emergence of militant groups affiliated with Daesh,” the statement said.
“Under the laws of war, deliberate attacks on civilians or civilian objects such as houses of worship are war crimes. Dressing as civilian police to carry out a military attack is also a war crime. Criminal acts such as murder committed by state security forces or armed groups as part of a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population such as a religious minority are crimes against humanity,” HRW said.
“Insurgents who carry out atrocities against a specific ethnic or religious community are committing war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity,” Gossman said. “All parties to Afghanistan’s conflict should recognize that such grave international crimes may be prosecuted anywhere in the world at any time.”