A massive suicide blast at a Shiite mosque in Kabul killed at least 32 people on Monday and injured 35 as worshippers gathered for a religious ceremony, officials said. “It was a suicide bomber who blew himself up among worshippers inside the mosque, killing 27 and wounding 35,” senior police official Fridon Obaidi said. Police cordoned off the area around the Baqirul Olum mosque in the west of the Afghan capital.
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The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, Reuters reported. A statement in Arabic from Islamic State’s Amaq news agency said one of its fighters had targeted the mosque. Bloody sectarian rivalry between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims has been relatively rare in Afghanistan, a majority Sunni country, but the attack underlines the deadly new dimension that growing ethnic tension could bring to its decades-long conflict.
Fraidoon Obaidi, chief of the Kabul police Criminal Investigation Department, said at least 27 people were killed and 35 wounded, while the United Nations said at least 32 had been killed and more than 50 wounded, including many children. It described the attack as “an atrocity”.
“I saw people screaming and covered in blood,” one survivor told Afghanistan’s Ariana Television, adding that around 40 dead and 80 wounded had been taken from the building before rescue services arrived at the scene.
Another witness said he had helped carry 30-35 bodies from the mosque.
Islamic State, based mainly in the eastern state of Nangarhar on the border with Pakistan, has gradually expanded its reach since emerging in Afghanistan last year with a reputation for hardline fundamentalism and brutality.
Prior to Monday’s attack, it had claimed responsibility for two major attacks on Shi’ite targets in Kabul, including a suicide bombing which killed more than 80 people at a demonstration by the mainly Shi’ite Hazara community, the worst single attack on civilians since 2001.
Last month, it also claimed an attack in which 18 people were killed when a gunman in police uniform opened fire on worshippers gathered at a shrine in Kabul for Ashura, one of the holiest occasions in the Shi’ite calendar.
In addition, at least 14 people were killed in an attack on a Shi’ite mosque in northern Balkh province, for which no group has so far claimed responsibility.
(With Inputs from agencies)