Dozens killed in blast at Shia mosque in Afghanistan's Kandahar
Multiple blasts rocked a mosque in the Afghan city of Kandahar during Friday prayers, reports said, marking yet another incidence of violence in the Taliban-ruled country. A doctor at a local hospital told news agency AFP that at least 33 people had died and 74 others injured, indicating the toll could rise. The attack took place at the Bibi Fatima mosque.
A spokesperson for the Afghan Interior Ministry has confirmed today's attack. "We are saddened to learn that an explosion took place in a mosque of the Shiite brotherhood in the first district of Kandahar city in which a number of our compatriots were martyred and wounded," Qari Sayed Khosti, the spokesperson, tweeted. No terror group has claimed responsibility for the assault yet.
A local Taliban official told AFP that a suicide bomber apparently blew himself up inside the said mosque. "We have launched an investigation to find out more," the official told the agency.
An eyewitness said he heard three explosions - one at the mosque's main door, another at a southern area, and the third where worshippers wash before the prayers. Another witness told Associated Press that four suicide bombers were involved in the attack. At least 15 ambulances were seen rushing around the area. Viral pictures from the scene showed bodies lying on the mosque's floor.
Today's attack took place just one week after over 50 people were killed and more than 100 were wounded in a similar attack at another Shia mosque in the northern Kunduz province. Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), a bitter rival of the ruling Taliban, had claimed responsibility for that bombing. The Taliban had promised to bring the perpetrators to justice at that time.
Shias comprise roughly 10 percent of the Afghan population. The community has long been persecuted by Sunni extremist groups, including the Taliban. The new Taliban rulers have promised to protect the minorities even though multiple attacks have been reported since their hostile takeover in August.