Suicide attack on Shiite mosque in Afghanistan kills 37

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Taliban fighters guard a Serena hotel, which is popular with foreigners, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Ahmad Halabisaz)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Suicide bombers attacked a Shiite mosque packed with worshippers attending Friday prayers in southern Afghanistan, killing at least 37 people and wounding more than 70, according to a hospital official and a witness.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the carnage at the Fatimiya mosque in Kandahar province. It came a week after a bombing claimed by the local Islamic State affiliate killed 46 people at a Shiite mosque in northern Afghanistan.

Murtaza, who and like many Afghans goes by one name, said he was inside the mosque during the attack and reported four explosions: two outside and two inside. He said Friday prayers at the mosque typically draw about 500 people.

Video footage showed bodies scattered across bloodstained carpets, with survivors walking around in a daze or crying out in anguish.

A local hospital official who was not authorized to speak to the media provided the casualty toll on the condition of anonymity.

The Islamic State group, which like Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban is made up of Sunni Muslims, views Shiite Muslims as apostates deserving of death.

IS has claimed a number of deadly bombings across the country since the Taliban seized power in August amid the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The group, which also regards the Taliban as enemies, has targeted Taliban fighters in smaller attacks.

The Taliban have pledged to restore peace and security after decades of war. Both the Taliban and IS adhere to a rigid interpretation of Islamic law, but IS is far more radical. It has better-known branches in Iraq and Syria.

The Taliban have pledged to protect Afghanistan’s Shiite minority, which was persecuted during the last period of Taliban rule, in the 1990s.

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