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KABUL — Gunmen disguised as police officers attacked a Shi’ite shrine packed with hundreds of worshippers in the Afghan capital late Tuesday and may have taken hostages in a shootout that left at least five people dead and dozens wounded, officials and witnesses reported.

The assault on the Kart-e-Sakhi shrine in western Kabul came on the eve of Ashura, one of the most solemn holidays in the Shi’ite calendar, commemorating the death of a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, said three gunmen had entered the shrine as people were preparing for the commemoration. He said that the police had shot one of the assailants and that “two others are still in the shrine.”

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Elite Afghan forces cordoned off the area, witnesses said. More than a dozen ambulances were at the site.

Wahidullah Majrooh, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Health, said that the bodies of at least five people had been recovered and that 36 wounded had been transferred to Kabul hospitals. Sixteen of the wounded were women, Majroh said.

Sayed Yousuf Hassani, a religious scholar who works at the shrine, said that the assailants were dressed in police uniforms and that they started shooting indiscriminately.

New York Times