Afghanistan is arming hundreds of civilians nationwide to help protect mosques during the month of Muharram after several deadly attacks on Shiite religious sites.
The government’s move comes as it considers a similar proposal to arm 20,000 villagers to fight militants, highlighting the impotence of Afghanistan’s army and police in beating back insurgents and stemming the bloody violence.
The extra protection for mosques was announced on the website of Second Vice President Sarwar Danish. It also involves the deployment during the mourning month of Muharram of more troops and police around places of worship, particularly those of the Shiite Muslim minority.
Shiites, who number around three million in overwhelmingly Sunni Afghanistan, have regularly been targeted by ISIS and accuse police and troops of failing to protect them.
“After the recent unfortunate incidents the people should not rely on security forces alone to provide them protection. The people, especially the youth, in their respective areas, need to focus on securing the mosques during the Muharram days,” Danish said after a meeting with top security officials and Shiite leaders on Monday.
Acting Interior Minister Wais Barmak said the training of “hundreds of people” recruited by the ministry to protect mosques had almost finished. They will support the additional forces to be deployed around “sacred places”.
“Measures have been taken to distribute weapons, salaries and other necessary means to the newly recruited people,” Barmak said, according to the statement. ISIS in the past 14 months has claimed a series of attacks which killed scores of Shiites.