JNN 14 Oct 2016 Kabul : Atleast 32 Shia have been Martyred in two separate attacks on the commemoration of Ashura ceremonies in Afghanistan.
At least 14 Shias have been killed in a powerful blast at a mosque in northern Afghanistan, the second deadly attack on the minority in as many days during the major festival of Ashura.
“The explosion happened at the gate of the Shia mosque in the centre of Balkh district (in Balkh province),” the provincial governor’s spokesman Munir Ahmad Farhad said on Wednesday, adding that 14 people were killed and 28 injured.
His account was confirmed by the provincial deputy police chief.
The blast came as ISIS claimed responsibility for twin attacks in Kabul on Tuesday that also targeted Shias, killing up to 18 people and wounding dozens.
The threat of attacks on Shias was considered particularly serious during Ashura, and many foreign embassies in Kabul had restricted staff movements until the end of the week.
On Wednesday, grieving worshippers described desperately trying to shelter their children against a hail of gunfire during the Kabul attacks.
One mother who gave her name as Saleha was shot in the leg as she tried to protect her child: “While I was hugging my little son I begged him not to kill my child.”
The child survived, but she angrily denounced the Afghan government for failing to protect them.
Ali Hussain, another witness, said attackers “indiscriminately shot everyone they faced. They wouldn’t even spare women and children”.
On Wednesday ISIS’s affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan claimed the Kabul attack, which president Ashraf Ghani condemned as a “clear sign of a crime against humanity”.
Until recent months the group had been confined to its stronghold in eastern Nangarhar, but in July it claimed twin bombings that tore through minority Shia Hazara protesters in Kabul, killing 84 people in the deadliest attack in the capital since 2001.
Its leader Hafiz Saeed was killed in a US airstrike in Nangarhar that same month, and officials have denied the July attack marked a turning point for ISIS in Afghanistan, saying the group has been under heavy pressure from US airstrikes and Afghan forces on the ground.
In the Previous attack Gunmen have killed at least 14 people in a Shia shrine on the eve of Ashura commemoration in Kabul.
The attack took place on the eve of Ashura, one of of the holiest days of the year for Shia Muslims, who constitute a sizeable community in the country.
Witnesses said gunmen entered the Karte Sakhi shrine near Kabul University late on Tuesday, firing indiscriminately on men, women and children as they tried to flee. The interior ministry said one was wearing a suicide vest.
At the same time, another attacker entered a nearby mosque and took an unspecified number of people hostage, the ministry said.
The UN called the attack an “atrocity” and put the toll at 18, though the interior ministry later said it was 16.
As hundreds of worshipers gathered in Kabul’s large Sakhi shrine on Tuesday evening, assailants in police uniforms stormed the complex, according to witnesses who also heard explosions.
A ministry of interior spokesman told Associated Press that 13 civilians and one policeman had been killed. Over 40 were wounded, said the ministry of public health, including at least 15 women. After more than two hours, elite forces killed the last attacker.
“There were women, children and young men praying inside the shrine,” said Shari, 48, a pilgrim.
The area outside the shrine houses a large cemetery and is a favoured picnic spot for Kabul families but is also open landscape with limited security.
Farad Alamdar, who had come to the shrine several days in a row, said: “In previous days, there was a lot of security. I don’t know why there was not much security today. They didn’t even check cars. I talked about that with my cousins over dinner, that attackers could come from everywhere.”
On Ashura, Shias commemorate the Martyrdom in 680 AD of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad, who they regard as a rightful heir to the prophet.
Tuesday’s attack marks the second time in months that Kabul’s Shia community has been targeted. In July, more than 80 people were killed when two suicide bombers targeted a peaceful protest by members of the Hazara ethnic minority in an attack that was claimed by Islamic State.
In another attack during Ashura in 2011, a suicide bomber killed more than 70 worshipers outside another shrine in central Kabul.
Despite these deadly attacks, Afghanistan has largely been spared sectarian violence since 2001.
Tuesday’s attack could be an attempt to stoke ethnic tensions in a country that since the fall of the Taliban 2001 has experienced growing religious freedom and tolerance.
A member of the Afghan intelligence services told the Guardian that security forces feared more attacks were planned against mosques and crowds during the Ashura commemorations.
Sectarian attacks have been relatively Less in Afghanistan, unlike neighbouring Pakistan where violence – particularly by Wahabi hardliners against the Shia Community – has claimed thousands of lives over the past decade.