Thursday 22 February 2018

27 killed as suicide bomb rips through mosque

Afghan security forces keep watch in front of the mosque where the explosion happened Photo: REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
Afghan security forces keep watch in front of the mosque where the explosion happened Photo: REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Sarah Elizabeth Williams

At least 27 people have been killed and more than 35 injured in a suicide attack on a crowded Shia mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan, the third major attack on minority Shias in the city since July.

The attacker entered the Baqir-ul-Olum mosque shortly after midday as worshippers gathered for a ceremony, the interior ministry said.

"I was in the mosque, the people were offering prayers. Suddenly I heard a bang and windows broke. I had no idea what had happened. I rushed out screaming," survivor Ali Jan said.

"I saw people screaming and covered in blood," another survivor said.

He said he had seen 40 dead and 80 injured taken from the mosque.

The Kabul police Criminal Investigation Department said the death total from the incident could rise.

The Taliban denied it was involved. The hardline Sunni group is pushing to reassert control over Afghanistan after being ousted by US forces in 2001.

"We have never attacked mosques as it is not our agenda," said a Taliban spokesman.

No other group has claimed responsibility.

While majority-Sunni Afghanistan has struggled to maintain stability since the US invasion, the country has long been spared the kind of bloody sectarian fighting common in Iraq and Syria.

This attack, the latest in a string of suicide blasts targeting Shias, suggests Afghanistan may no longer be immune.

Last month, during Ashura, a major Shia festival, a suicide bomber killed 14 people at a mosque in Balkh, in northern Afghanistan.

That attack came just days after 18 people were killed in a Kabul attack that targeted Shias and was claimed by Isil.

In July, more than 80 people were killed in an attack on a demonstration by the mainly Shia Hazara minority.

Abdullah Abdullah, a government official in Kabul, condemned the attack as a sign of barbarism but said Afghanistan should not fall victim to "enemy plots that divide us by titles".

"This attack targeted innocent civilians - including children - in a holy place.

"It is a war crime," he added.

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