Christchurch Terrorist Sentenced Life In Prison With No Parole

This marks New Zealand’s history as it is the first life sentence without parole imposed on any criminal in the country.

The Australian terrorist responsible for the Christchurch massacre will serve life in prison without the possibility of parole. This marks the first terrorist conviction of New Zealand’s history and is also the first such sentence imposed on any criminal in the country.

Brenton Tarrant, 29, pleaded guilty to the murders of 51 people, attempted murder of another 40 people, and one charge of terrorism. This announcement came after his initial denial of the charges against him. 

Following the emotional confrontations of the victims in the courtroom, the judge, Justice Cameron Mander, asked the convict if he wished to say anything. He denied the offer while maintaining his usual expressionless manner. 

Judge Mander labeled his actions as “inhumane” and that he “showed no mercy” during his killing spree on March 15th, 2019. 

“Your crimes are so wicked that even if you are detained until you die, it will not exhaust the requirements of punishment,” the Judge said. He went on to express his disappointment for Tarrant’s lack of remorse for his actions of slaughtering “unarmed, defenseless individuals.”

“You have offered no apology or public acknowledgment of the harms you have caused … While I appreciate that you have forsaken the opportunity to use these proceedings as a platform, you appear neither contrite nor ashamed,” Judge Mander said. 

Tarrant plotted his attacks three years in advance, deciding his targets a couple of months before. He had complete architectural plans of the mosques and planned his attacks to the very last detail. Tarrant’s original plan included hitting three mosques and murdering a greater number of individuals to which he admitted at the time of his arrest. 

The lead prosecutor of the case, Mark Zarifeh, stated that “given the gravity of the offending and the devastating loss of life and injury” no minimum duration of imprisonment was sufficient for the criminal. He also named Tarrant as the worst murderer in the country’s history.

This verdict similarly garnered positive reactions from the victims. While they agreed that no punishment will be able to bring back what they lost, the justice served will help them sleep well at night. 

“We are not in a country where we can expect the death penalty. But they have served justice, giving the maximum prison time without parole,” said Hina Amir, one of the people outside the mosque at the time of the attack.

To express their support, the public began gathering outside the courthouse as well, holding signs reading: “We are one.”

New Zealand’s Prime minister Jacinda Ardern communicated her approval of the sentencing and stated,“Today I hope is the last where we have any cause to hear or utter the name of the terrorist.”

The country finally put an end to the worst terrorist attack in the country’s history which prompted stricter gun laws in New Zealand among other things, possibly obstructing the way for any such attempts in the future.

Young Black Muslim Mother-To-Be Shot Dead In Maryland

Both CAIR and the Howard County Police are offering separate rewards of up to $5,000 for information leading to the suspect.

A young Black pregnant Muslim woman was fatally shot in her home July 31  in Columbia, Maryland on Eid weekend, according to local authorities. The woman, Rabiah Ahmad, was a hairstylist with her own brand, House of Kiyomi. Her baby girl, Ajha, was delivered but is in critical condition. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the woman’s killer.

On August 6, an update to a GoFundMe campaign organized by Ahmad’s cousin revealed that Ajha also died. 

Howard County Police say that officers responded to the 6600 block of Dovecote Drive for a report of several shots fired around 11 p.m. on Friday. Multiple bullets were fired into the residence from the outside, and one of which struck Rabiah Ahmad, who was 30.

The victim was taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where she died. Ahmad was 28 weeks pregnant. At first doctors were able to save and deliver the baby girl, Ahja, but unfortunately she passed away just days later on August 5.

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball addressed the horrific tragedy and offered condolences to Ahmad’s friends and relatives in a statement:

“It is an unimaginable and unacceptable tragedy which took place in our community overnight. Our condolences and prayers go out to the family and friends of Ms. Ahmad and to our entire Howard County Muslim community who are shocked and saddened by the incident which occurred on Eid al-Adha, the Day of Sacrifice.”

At this time, the motive for the shooting is unknown.

“The Howard County police department is working diligently on this case and my office has been in touch with leaders within the Muslim community to offer our support and resources where needed to help those impacted,” Ball added.

Zainab Chaudry, director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations office in Maryland, made the following statement:

“Our hearts go out to the victim’s loved ones, and especially to the infant in critical condition. We urge anyone with information about this horrific crime to contact authorities and help bring justice for this family. At this point, there are too many unanswered questions, and the community’s help can make a tremendous difference.”

Both CAIR and the Howard County Police are offering separate rewards of up to $5,000 for information leading to the suspect. Anyone with any information at all is urged to contact CAIR Director of Maryland Outreach Zainab Chaudry, zchaudry@cair.com, 410-971-6062.

READ MORE: First Two Muslim-American Women Elected To Congress Won Their Re-Election Primaries

Man Arrested In Spain For Murder Of Aya Hachem After ‘Fleeing To Portugal’

Aya Hachem was shot and killed as she walked near Lidl Supermarket in Blackburn on May 17th.

Manchester Evening News reported that a 30-year-old man was arrested in Spain on suspicion of the murder of 19-year-old Aya Hachem on July 4.

The 30-year-old was arrested after a European Arrest Warrant was executed in the holiday resort of Fuengirola.

Prior to his arrest, the man first fled to Portugal using his brother’s passport, before hiding out on the Costa Del Sol with his girlfriend, Spanish police revealed.

Aya Hachem was shot and killed as she walked near Lidl Supermarket in Blackburn on May 17th.

The man is being held on suspicion of murder and the attempted murder of the man police believe was the target of the drive-by shooting that killed Hachem.

A spokesman for Spain’s National Police said on July 8 that, “Police have arrested a fugitive on foot of a European Arrest Warrant in Fuengirola.”

The spokesman added, “Further investigation led to the identification of the vehicle he was using, leading officers to trace the route he took through the South of Spain.”

The man is currently subject to the extradition process so he can be brought back to Lancashire and be charged with the offenses.

READ MORE: Two Men Charged With The Murder Of Aya Hachem

Kansas City Gun Range Denies Muslim Woman Entry Because Of Her Hijab

"Hats, caps, bandanas, or any other head covering will be removed in the facility, except baseball caps facing forward.” She was told by the range's manager that keeping her scarf would pose a safety risk.

A Kansas City area gun range is under fire for violating the civil rights of a local Muslim woman by not allowing her into the facility unless she removed her hijab earlier this year.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is demanding the U.S. Department of Justice launch an investigation into the denial of services by Frontier Justice during an incident earlier this year at one of their gun ranges located at 800 NE Jones Industrial Dr in Lee Summit, a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri.

Rania Barakat shared her experience in a video conference on Facebook Live with CAIR this past Thursday. The incident, which took place on January 1, unfolded after an hour long wait on  a busy New Year’s Day out with her husband, who had used the range in the past with friends. When the couple approached the cashier to pay, they were told by staff that she must remove her hijab in order to use the facilities. 

Barakat stated that she’d shot at other gun ranges in the past without any issue. Frontier Justice employees cited the company’s dress code policy, which is listed on its website, “Hats, caps, bandanas, or any other head covering will be removed in the facility, except baseball caps facing forward.” She was told by the range’s manager that keeping her scarf would pose a safety risk. The couple left once it became clear they weren’t going to be let in.

Afterwards, Barakat said she went online to leave a review only to discover that other hijabis in her community had encountered a similar experience at the range, some she even knew personally. 

“The law demands equal access to public accommodations regardless of your race, color, religion and national origin,” said CAIR attorney Zanah Ghalawanji. “Frontier Justice has disregarded and violated the civil rights protections by actively excluding Muslim women who wear the hijab from their business.”

The company, whose website denotes its core values of “Faith, Family and Freedom,” has facilities in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas. Their site also makes note of their involvement in Christian education, which leads one to believe they would be more sensitive to issues of religious expression. 

“To have this happen to me personally, it was very sad and, you know, frustrating,” Barakat said. “And I would never want anyone to go through what I went through.”

In Thursday’s conference, Moussa Elbayoumy, chairman of CAIR’s Kansas board, mentioned that the chapter had received other reports around the same time from other hijabis who were also told they had to remove their scarves in order to shoot at the same location. He stated that the range’s policy isn’t based on any legitimate safety concerns, and is deliberately meant to exclude Muslim women.

“Frontier Justice, you know, says they value faith, family and freedom,” Zanah Ghalawanji, a CAIR National attorney said in the conference. “That appears to be their motto, but, however, their actions tell us that they have shown otherwise.”

You can read CAIR’s letter to the Department of Justice in full here or donate to support Barakat’s legal defense via their official fundraiser.

READ MORE: Bangladeshi Tech CEO Fahim Saleh Found Dismembered In New York Apartment

Bangladeshi Tech CEO Fahim Saleh Found Dismembered In New York Apartment

Saleh was last seen on camera getting into the elevator in his apartment building accompanied by a man dressed in all black, who, according to police, is the suspected assailant.

New York, New York – Fahim Saleh, 33-year-old tech entrepreneur, venture capitalist and founder of Gokada and Pathao – ride sharing companies – was found dismembered in his New York apartment on July 14th.

The NYPD confirmed a man had been found dead Tuesday in an apartment in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Saleh was last seen on camera footage on the evening of July 12th getting into the elevator in his apartment building accompanied by a man dressed in all black, who, according to police, is the suspected assailant. The elevator in Saleh’s building goes straight into his luxury condo, the source said.

When Saleh’s sister went to check on him, found his torso in an area next to the living room, the official said. Other parts of his body were found stuffed into individual bags in the apartment, the source said

Who was Fahim Saleh?

The 33-year old, son of Bangladeshi immigrants, was a tech savvy person who created his first company PrankDial.com while still in high school. He later went on to co-found a ride-sharing company Pathao, which is a popular service in Bangladesh and Nepal. In 2018 he helped found Nigerian motorbike taxi app Gokada. And very recently, he also founded a venture capital firm Adventure Capital which invested in ride-sharing start-ups in countries like Bangladesh and Colombia.

Saleh’s family confirmed his death in a statement.

“The headlines talk about a crime we still cannot fathom,” the statement said. “Fahim is more than what you are reading. He is so much more. His brilliant and innovative mind took everyone who was a part of his world on a journey and he made sure never to leave anyone behind.”

“There are no words or actions to provide any of us comfort except the capture of the person who exhibited nothing short of evil upon our loved one,” the statement continued.

“We need and urge the NYPD and other members of law enforcement to work diligently to get to the bottom of this horrific crime and bring justice for Fahim,” his family said.

Both of the companies were founded by Saleh. His Pathao co-founder Hussein M Elius paid tribute to the passionate tech-entrepreneur.

Saleh’s personal assistant 21-year-old Tyrese Devon Haspil was arrested Friday in connection to the death of the tech-entrepreneur. He allegedly owed Saleh tens of thousands of dollars and was on a repayment plan. 

Haspil was arrested Friday morning outside a building in the city’s SoHo neighborhood,  NYPD Detectives Chief Rodney Harrison said during a news briefing Friday. He is charged with second-degree murder and other charges. Haspil was Saleh’s executive assistant and “handled his finances and personal matters,” Harrison said. “It is also believed that he owed the victim a significant amount of money.”

Reportedly Saleh recently discovered that Haspil — who’d worked for him for five years — stole roughly $90,000 from him. After which he decided to fire Haspil and offer to set up a repayment plan. 

Police told the Times Haspil, dressed in a black three-piece suit, followed Saleh into the key-card secured elevator that led to his seventh-floor apartment and attacked him when the elevator stopped. He disabled Saleh with a taser, and stabbed him several times in the neck and torso.

The horrid killing shocked neighbors and the tech and venture capital worlds, where Fahim Saleh, a founding partner at Adventure Capital, cultivated a reputation as an energetic and creative businessman who specialized in direct investment in developing nations – with his ride-hailing apps in Nigeria and Bangladesh being worth more than hundreds of millions of dollars.

READ MORE: It Empowered Me To Fight Even More: Alaa Massri’s Charges Dropped But She Isn’t Backing Down

It Empowered Me To Fight Even More: Alaa Massri’s Charges Dropped But She Isn’t Backing Down

The 19-year-old was arrested for protesting and had her hijab unlawfully removed in police custody.

Alaa Massri is a fierce advocate for injustice, and one that isn’t easily rattled – after all, she’s the woman who was arrested for protesting in Miami who had her hijab unlawfully removed. 

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Muslim (@muslim) on

As her charges have been dropped, Massri says she would like to believe it was her petition—which garnered over 315,000 signatures and counting—and the voice of the people that was heard, that led her to this outcome.

The Lebanese-American pre-med student has been a frequent protestor, attending at least three to four protests weekly since May 30, carrying medical equipment with her to tend to injured folks. Massri is also the leader and organizer of a street medic team for an organization in Miami.

Recalling the first protest she attended on May 30, Massri said, “The police started firing rubber bullets and throwing tear gas at us. I rushed to help one of the protesters who had gotten shot; he was bleeding, very, very badly … and then moments after the tear gas had gotten so bad, I actually passed out in the street, and I was carried away by random strangers.”

However, Massri did say that the majority of protests she has attended have been peaceful, with the exception of the one on May 30 and the one where she got arrested.

She also mentioned how she hadn’t considered the possibility of something happening to her. “It was a very peaceful protest, it was a Wednesday. Everyone was at work … so, we were maybe 60, 70, 80 of us, at most,” she recalls about the day of her arrest. “I knew that arrests were something that may possibly happen at a very violent protest, you know, one that has looting … and actual riots, but I never anticipated for arrests to happen where I was protesting or myself getting arrested at all. It was very unexpected and very traumatizing.”

Massri said her involvement in protests and being at the frontline of them leads her to believe that her arrest was a personal attack on her, and a tactic to scare her and the folks she’s been leading to stop them from continuing the work they’ve been doing — and will continue to do.

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by alaa florénce massri (@alaa.massri) on

“For me personally, I think it just empowered me and encouraged me to continue to fight even more because the police are hiding behind their badge, where they get to lie on police reports and blatantly dictate whatever charges they want to press you with,” she explained.

While taking action against the officers involved in her arrest is a possibility, “It’s more important that something like a policy, or a bill would be passed to ensure that this never happens again, at the end of the day, that’s my end goal,” she added.

After an incident in Minnesota in 2013, where a Muslim woman suffered the same fate when she was forced to remove her hijab infront of mail jailers over a traffic offense, Minnesota decided to  implement a new policy on how to treat female Muslim inmates in their state. Massri expressed that while this was a good first step, she believes it is imperative to educate officers and others who are in positions of power and implement some sort of religious learning classes or a cultural training day.

Massri believes stripping Muslim women of their hijabs during the time of their arrest is a humiliation tactic “to prove that their badge has the power, and the ability to do whatever they want and to humiliate you in whatever way that they can, and choose to do so.”

Everyone who was arrested at the time Massri was, were all males who also objected against her treatment and told the officers it was her religious right to wear her hijab, but while she was still in handcuffs, she recalls the officers grabbed her hijab off her head and took it away, and said they dictate what happens in their job.

Massri’s message to all young activists, hijabi or not is to keep going out there and keep fighting in whatever way that you can.

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by alaa florénce massri (@alaa.massri) on

 

“It’s important to recognize your privilege,” she expresses. “No matter what type of privilege you have — whether it’s just skin color, the language that you speak, your socio-economic status, your health — all of these contribute to your privilege and the ability to recognize that and use that voice of privilege to stand up for those who are oppressed and for those who face injustices is vital in changing the world for future generations.”

READ MORE: Muslim Woman Forced To Take Mugshot Without Hijab In Florida

Starbucks Employee Writes “ISIS” On Cup Of Muslim Student In Minneapolis

The incident took place at the Starbucks store inside the Midway Target at 1300 University Ave in St. Paul, MN.

On Wednesday of last week, a 19-year-old Minneapolis college student named Aishah was making a routine stop at a local Starbucks on her way to work. When her order arrived, the word “ISIS” was written on her drink instead of her name. The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) is speaking out against this unacceptable behavior, which occurred on July 1.

The incident took place at the Starbucks store inside the Midway Target at 1300 University Ave in St. Paul, MN. Aishah, who declined to give her last name to the media out of concern for her safety, was on her way to her job as a home care worker. 

CAIR-MN is demanding that the Starbucks worker in question be fired, as well as the manager who said it was a “mistake.” When reached for comment by CBS Minnesota, a representative for Starbucks shifted the burden of responsibility, saying that it was actually a Target employee involved and that Target will be conducting an investigation. Technically, the employee is one of Target despite having been wearing a Starbucks uniform due to licensing rights at Target Starbucks locations.

Target provided CBS Minnesota with the following statement regarding the incident:

“At Target, we want everyone who shops with us to feel welcomed, valued and respected and we strictly prohibit discrimination and harassment in any form. We are very sorry for this guest’s experience at our store and immediately apologized to her when she made our store leaders aware of the situation. We have investigated the matter and believe that it was not a deliberate act but an unfortunate mistake that could have been avoided with more clarification. We’re taking appropriate actions with the team member, including additional training, to ensure this does not occur again.”

More information to come.

READ MORE: AOC Pens Letter Against Israel’s Annexation Of Palestinian Territory With Support Of Lawmakers

Canada’s Jagmeet Singh Removed From House Of Commons For Calling Out Racism

Singh was putting forward a motion to reduce and prevent systemic racism in the RCMP, Canada’s federal police force.

Canada’s Jagmeet Singh Removed From House Of Commons For Calling Out Racism

Singh was putting forward a motion to reduce and prevent systemic racism in the RCMP, Canada’s federal police force.

By

Nabeeha Asim & Wali Ahmad

Photo - Getty Images / Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

Canadian New Democratic Party leader and member of parliament Jagmeet Singh was removed from the House of Commons for having unapologetically called Bloc Québécois’s Alain Therrien, also a member of parliament, a racist. Singh’s comment came after Therrien became the sole vote against a motion to combat systemic racism in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) earlier this week.

Addressing the House, Singh highlighted the motion’s four main components, which consists of “reviewing the nearly 10 million dollar a day RCMP budget and increase non police investments in nonviolent intervention, insure that the RCMP is truly accountable to the public, releasing all RCMP incidents of “use-of-force” reports, and immediately launching a full report on the use-of-force by the RCMP including the tactics and the training that is given to them in dealing with the public.”  

After Singh had explained the motion, Anthony Rota, speaker of the House of Commons, asked the House for consent to move the motion; in an almost unanimous crowd of “yeses”, however, Singh was shocked to hear one “no” from Therrien, who dismissed the motion with the wave of his hand. Angered, he immediately called Therrien out for being racist. Singh, seen as too emotional, was instantaneously marked down in value by Therrien’s political party for the “altercation.” He was also prompted by Rota and other Bloc Quebecois members of parliament to apologize, which Singh refused to do. Singh was then told to leave the House for the remainder of the proceeding.

Hours later, Singh provided a more detailed account of what had transpired and further described how he felt in light of Therrien’s dissent. “Why can’t we act, why can’t we do something to save peoples lives? We can do something, and why would someone say no to that?” Singh told the media. “I’ll be honest, I got angry, but I’m now sad.”

Reactions by the other party leaders were mixed. Prime Minister of Canada and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau took to the media to defend Singh. “It is not for me to criticize any Canadian, particularly the only racialized leader in the House of Commons, for making other people uncomfortable by calling them out for not recognizing systemic discrimination”, he said. “It remains problematic that the Bloc Québécois refuses to recognize systemic racism in the RCMP and this country.” 

Singh, although touched by the show of support, implied that kind words are not enough. “We need to see action,” he said. “That’s what I’m calling for, concrete action to end the use of force and the brutality and the lives being lost.”

READ MORE: Police Kill 62-Year-Old Ejaz Choudry After Undergoing Schizophrenia Episode In His Apartment

On the other hand, Yves-Francois Blanchet, Leader of Bloc Québécois, demanded a formal apology. Blanchet fears that having no severe consequences associated with Singhs actions will encourage “everybody [to] feel entitled to do the same”, claiming that Therrien’s dismissive hand gesture that resulted in Singh’s exclamation was “open to interpretation” and was not “explicit” enough for everyone to have understood.

Ironically, many Canadians have taken the view that the removal of Singh for his justified reaction to the dissent of a motion that combats systemic racism, is a racist reaction in and of itself. The call for a motion addressing systemic racism in the federal police comes in response to the heightened concerns surrounding racism and police brutality highlighted by the now-global Black Lives Matter movement. Singh highlighted that the creation of the motion was a result of the ongoing protests to fight racism, and that this issue is equally prominent in Canada as it is in the United States. 

The removal of Singh from the House proceeding was essentially a move to silent a person with lived experiences of racism from speaking out about what many find to be a hard-to-accept truth.

This is not the first time that members and candidates of the Bloc Québécois Party have been under fire for racist sentiment. In October 2019, Canadian media outlets uncovered numerous Islamophobic and racist social media posts either created or shared by candidates running for the party. All candidates apologized for their comments, with Blanchet adding his own apologies “to the entire population of Quebec.” Blanchet and the Bloc Québécois Party have previously defended Quebec’s discriminatory provincial Bill 21 removing the right to wear religious symbols – such as the hijab, turban or kippa – in the province’s public service.

Therrien’s implied racist sentiment is not new in federal Canadian politics. In 2017, the House of Commons had passed the Liberal Party’s motion (M-103) condemning Islamophobia and “all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” The motion asked that a governmental committee collect data on related hate crimes, and study the various methodologies that could effectively eliminate these issues. Although the motion was passed by a vote of 201-91, Many of those who opposed this motion were worried that it would “result in Sharia law being imposed in Canada” and had decidedly voted against it, despite the motion’s clear intention to combat systemic racism. 

Therrien’s reaction to the NDP’s current motion shares uncanny similarities with reactions to motion M-103. The inability to vote in favor of a governmental action which explicitly aims to reduce and prevent systemic racism or Islamophobia undoubtably implies racist and Islamophobic sentiment. The only difference between then and now is that a racialized political party leader has effectively called out racism in the Canadian government – only to be penalized for it.

Muslim Woman Forced To Take Mugshot Without Hijab In Florida

Alaa Massri protested for Black Lives. The Miami Police Department’s answer: they forced her hijab off for a mugshot.

Alaa Massri, a college student, was protesting in a Black Lives Matter protest in Miami, Florida on June 10th, 2020. As a college student, Massri was a part of the medic team providing aid for protestors who got hurt. During the protest in Miami, she noticed a police car hitting a protestor, and she began rushing to help whoever got hurt. However, immediately she faced a group of cops in riot gear. The police began touching her, unwarrantedly, while she says she respectfully asked them to stop. Their response: arrest her. 

After allegedly zip-tying her, charging her with battery, resisting an officer with violence, and disorderly conduct, they took her to Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Facility where they placed her into handcuffs. They proceeded to take off her hijab for her mugshot. After unlawfully taking her picture, her photo was shown on TV across many platforms. And as if taking off her hijab for the mugshot wasn’t enough, they denied her her right to wear it for the seven hours after. 

The Miami Police Department has a history of racism that dates back to its establishment in 1896. Even within the police department, Black officers addressed discrimination and racism to the chief, Jorge Colina. In fact, the infamous “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” phrase Trump used in a Twitter post back in May was coined by Miami police chief Walter E. Headley in 1967

 


 
Massri was going to help a protester who was injured by the police. But, the police arrested Massri unlawfully. She was not told the reason she was arrested. The Miami Police Department did not read her her Miranda rights—a principle that requires all police officers to notify arrested citizens of their rights. Her constitutional right to wear a hijab was stripped. Her constitutional right to freedom of speech was violated. And many of her human rights were violated. 

Alaa Massri is still facing all charges and sits with the traumatizing experience of being emotionally, mentally, and physically violated by the police. Behavior like this from police departments across the United States continue to prove that the policing system needs to be reformed. 

Demand justice by signing her petition here

 

Attack At Mosque In Kabul During Friday Prayer Leaves Four Dead, Including Prayer Leader

An attack on a Kabul mosque has left at least four people, including the mullah, dead.

Attack At Mosque In Kabul During Friday Prayer Leaves Four Dead, Including Prayer Leader

An attack on a Kabul mosque has left at least four people, including the mullah, dead.

By

Ali M Latifi
Photo - Rahmat Gul/AP Photo

Kabul, Afghanistan  – An attack on a Kabul mosque has left at least four people, including the mullah, dead.

The bombing in the Shir Shah Shoori mosque took place amid the communal Friday prayer service. The explosion in West Kabul comes 10 days after a bombing in another well-known mosque in downtown Kabul and killed two people, including the mullah who was also the host of a popular religious Television program. In an online statement, the Taliban have condemned the latest mosque attack. The armed group claims that both of the attacks were orchestrated by “by a number of national security-linked individuals in collaboration with ISIS.”

“Such systematic killings have begun taking place as the Afghan people have started taking steps towards peace,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said in the statement. Last week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said his government is prepared to begin face-to-face peace talks with the Taliban within the next week.

The Taliban and Daesh have been at odds with one another since forces claiming allegiance to the so-called Islamic State first appeared in Afghanistan in 2014. 

Both incidents have incited anger and fear among Kabul residents, who continue to question how such high-profile houses of worship have been infiltrated by armed men. Because of its size and capacity, the Shir Shah Soori mosque — one of the few mosques in the city to have a proper women’s section — is often used for funeral prayer services, including those of high-profile officials and their families.

Residents say the relatively low casualty figures were due to the fact that fewer people were attending Friday services due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Afghanistan was one of the few Muslim-majority nations where mosques have remained open amid COVID-19 related shut downs of urban centers. 

The last month has seen several brutal attacks targeting civilians in Kabul and the Eastern province of Nangarhar. In recent weeks everywhere from a maternity clinic to a funeral procession and mosques have come under attack. Nearly all of those killings were attributed to the so-called Islamic State group.

READ MORE: Celebrating Eid In Afghanistan: Navigating A Ceasefire