A suicide bomber attacked a Shia Muslim shrine in Kabul yesterday killing at least 48 people in unprecedented sectarian violence.
Doctors and police struggled to count the dead from one of the bloodiest attacks in the Afghan capital since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001. The blast occurred as a crowd of hundreds gathered for the festival of Ashura. More than 100 were injured.
It was a potent reminder of Afghanistan’s troubles the day after its Western allies gathered at an international conference to pledge long-term support, even after their combat troops leave at the end of 2014. “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 said in Germany, where the conference on Afghanistan’s future was held.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack and Taliban spokesmen could not be reached for comment. Shortly after the Kabul blast, a bicycle bomb exploded near the main mosque in northern Mazar-i-Sharif city, killing four and injuring 17 others. The city’s streets were filled with people celebrating Ashura, but it was not clear if that attack was targetting Shia worshippers.
A motorbike bomb in southern Kandahar city also injured three civilians, but it had not been placed near any mosques or shrines, and appeared unrelated to the Kabul attacks.