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Suicide bomber strikes Afghan shrine, 59 dead

A suicide attack killed dozens of Shia Muslims at a crowded Kabul shrine on Tuesday, and four others died in a smaller blast in a key northern city, in the worst sectarian violence Afghanistan has seen since the fall of the Taliban.

world Updated: Dec 07, 2011 01:13 IST
Mirwais Harooni

A suicide attack killed dozens of Shia Muslims at a crowded Kabul shrine on Tuesday, and four others died in a smaller blast in a key northern city, in the worst sectarian violence Afghanistan has seen since the fall of the Taliban.

The Kabul bomb was the deadliest in the capital since 2008, and punctured any lingering sense of optimism from a conference on Monday where Western allies made firm but not specific promises to support Afghanistan after troops leave in 2014.



Bodies and blood were scattered down a street in the heart of old Kabul where a crowd of hundreds had gathered to mark the festival of Ashura, with chanting, and self-flagellation. At least 59 were killed and 160 wounded, some critically. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/07-12-11-metro17.jpg

Afghans, who have previously been spared the large-scale sectarian attacks that regularly trouble Iraq and neighbouring Pakistan, now face the grim prospect of a new type of bloodshed. “This is the first time on such an important religious day in Afghanistan that terrorism of that horrible nature is taking place,” Afghan President Hamid Karzai told journalists in Germany, where the conference on Afghanistan’s future was held.

Outside a Kabul hospital, mourners cried near a pile of bloody clothes and shoes. A woman in a headscarf clutching a bloodstained sports shoe said her son, in his early 20s, had died. “They killed my son ... this is his shoe,” she wailed.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks in Kabul and northern Mazar-i-Sharif. The Taliban strongly condemned the bombings and blamed “invader enemies”.

Afghanistan has a history of tension and violence between Sunnis and the Shia minority. But since the fall of the Taliban the country had avoided the large scale sectarian attacks that have troubled neighbouring Pakistan.

ACROSS THE COUNTRY

Shortly after the Kabul blast, a bicycle bomb exploded near the main mosque in northern Mazar-i-Sharif city, killing four, injuring 17 others, and sparking a fight at a university mosque where Shia and Sunnis were both praying.

“Enemies wanted to target the Muslim precession attending prayer, but because of tight security they failed,” the city’s senior police detective Abdul Raoof Taj, said.

Four people were injured in the mosque scuffle, which broke out when worshippers began arguing about the blast.

Police later defused a mine, found near the site of the explosion and likely intended to target rescuers and security forces attending to victims of the bomb.
A motorbike bomb also appeared to be aimed at Shia worshippers in Kandahar.

It exploded prematurely, injuring two policemen and three civilians, but causing no deaths.