At least 33 dead, 73 injured in mosque attack – .

At least 33 dead, 73 injured in mosque attack – .

KABUL – A large explosion ripped through a Shiite mosque in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar city during Friday prayers, killing at least 33 people and injuring 73, officials said, the second massive attack in a week targeting followers of the minority sect.

A local journalist in Kandahar told Reuters that eyewitnesses described three suicide bombers, one of whom blew himself up at the entrance to the mosque and the other two detonated their devices inside the building.

“The situation is very bad. Mirwais hospital sends messages and calls on young people to donate blood, ”he said, referring to a local hospital where the dead and wounded had been taken.

A health official gave figures of 33 dead and 73 injured and said the final total could be higher. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Interior Ministry spokesman Qari Saeed Khosti of the ruling Taliban movement said authorities were gathering details.

The bomb blast hit a Shiite mosque during Friday prayers, killing at least 30 people, an official confirmed. Murteza Khaliqi / Agence Anadolu via Getty Images

The explosion came just days after an attack claimed by ISIS militants that killed dozens of Shia worshipers at a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz. The total death toll from this attack was estimated at 80.

Sunni Muslim fighters for the Islamic State have repeatedly targeted Shiites in the past. The Taliban are also strict Sunni Muslims, but have been committed to protecting all ethnic and sectarian groups since coming to power in August as US forces withdrew.

The Embassy of Iran, Afghanistan’s neighbor and the region’s leading Shiite power, condemned the attack.

“We hope that the Taliban leadership will take decisive action against these appalling terrorist incidents,” he said in a tweet.

Taliban special forces arrived to secure the site and an appeal was made to residents to donate blood for the wounded.

The explosion, which came so soon after the attack on Kunduz, underscored the increasingly uncertain security in Afghanistan as the Taliban grapple with a growing economic and humanitarian crisis that threatens millions of people with hunger.

The local Islamic State affiliate, known as Islamic State Khorasan after an ancient name for the region covering Afghanistan, stepped up its attacks after the Taliban defeated the West-backed government in Kabul in August.

Taliban officials downplayed the threat from ISIS and rejected suggestions that they might accept US aid to combat the group. But repeated attacks have tarnished their claim to have brought peace to Afghanistan after four decades of war.

The fact that the Shiite minority has been targeted again may also exacerbate tensions between ethnic and sectarian groups in this largely Sunni country. Most of the Shiites in Afghanistan belong to the Hazara ethnic group of Persians, who have complained that they have been persecuted by the predominantly Pashtun-speaking Taliban in the past.


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