KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Suicide bombers attacked a Shia mosque filled with worshipers attending Friday prayers in southern Afghanistan, killing at least 47 people and injuring 70, a Taliban official said. It was the deadliest day since the US military withdrawal.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the carnage at the Fatimiya Mosque in Kandahar province. The attack came a week after an attack claimed by the local Islamic State affiliate killed 46 people in a Shia mosque in northern Afghanistan.
The sectarian bloodshed has raised fears that ISIS – an enemy of both the Taliban and the West – could expand its presence in Afghanistan.
Hafiz Sayeed, the Taliban chief of the Kandahar Culture and Information Department, said 47 people were killed and at least 70 injured in the attack.
Murtaza, a worshiper who, like many Afghans, has only one name, said he was inside the mosque during the attack and reported four explosions: two outside and two in the inside. He said Friday prayers at the mosque usually attract hundreds of people.
Another witness, also named Murtaza, was in charge of security at the mosque and said he saw two bombers. He said one detonated explosives outside the gate and the other was already among the worshipers inside the mosque.
He said mosque security personnel shot dead another suspected assailant outside.
Video footage showed bodies strewn across blood-stained carpets, survivors walking around dazed or screaming in anguish.
The Shiite Assembly of Ahl al-Bayt, a global religious society, has condemned the attack on Kandahar, accusing security forces in Afghanistan of being “unable” to cope with such attacks.
The Islamic State group, which, like the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan, is made up of Sunni Muslims, views Shia Muslims as apostates deserving of death.
IS has claimed responsibility for a number of deadly attacks across the country since the Taliban seized power in August amid the withdrawal of US forces. The group also targeted Taliban fighters in more modest attacks.
If the attack were carried out by ISIS, it would be the extremist group’s first major assault in southern Afghanistan since the departure of the United States allowed the Taliban to consolidate control of the country. Recent attacks in the north, east and the Afghan capital have cast doubt on the Taliban’s ability to counter the threat posed by ISIS.
Neighboring Pakistan, which has urged world leaders to work with the ruling Taliban, condemned the “vile attacks on places of worship” in a statement from its foreign ministry.
The Taliban have pledged to restore peace and security after decades of war and have also given the United States assurances that it will not allow the country to be used as a base for launching extremist attacks against others. country.
The Taliban also pledged to protect Afghanistan’s Shiite minority, which was persecuted during the last period of Taliban rule in the 1990s.
The Taliban and IS both adhere to a rigid interpretation of Islamic law, but IS is much more radical, with branches better known in Iraq and Syria.
And while the Taliban say they are creating an Islamic state in Afghanistan, within that country’s borders, ISIS claims it is the Islamic State, a global caliphate it insists on. the fact that all Muslims must support. It despises the nationalist aims of the Taliban and does not recognize them as a pure Islamic movement.
Akhgar reported from Istanbul.