Suicide bombing at mosque in Afghanistan kills at least 29
KABUL — Two suicide bombers attacked a Shi’ite mosque in eastern Afghanistan during Friday prayers, killing at least 29 people and wounding another 81, officials said.
Abdullah Asrat, spokesman for the governor of Paktia province, said the heavily armed attackers, disguised in the all-encompassing burkas worn by conservative Afghan women, opened fire on private security guards outside the mosque in the city of Gardez.
Then they slipped inside and set off their explosives among around 100 worshipers. Five of the seriously wounded were small children, Asrat said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan has targeted Shi’ite worshipers in the past. The group has also warned Afghanistan’s minority Shi’ites that their houses of worship would be targeted.
Syed Sufi Gardezi, the most senior Shi’ite cleric in Gardez, put the death toll at 30. He described a scene of panic and distress outside the Imam-e-Zaman mosque as news of the explosion spread and relatives gathered.
Dr. Mohammad Wali Roshan, a physician at a local hospital, said some of the relatives, armed with sticks and guns, were furious at the lack of security and began beating people, even medical personnel who arrived to help the wounded.
‘‘They were shouting that there was no security and screaming for their loved ones,’’ he said.
Gardezi blamed the Islamic State affiliate. He said the Taliban have a strong presence in the area but have never attacked Shi’ites in the past and have never threatened them.
Both the Taliban and the Islamic State are made up of radical Sunni Muslims who want to overthrow the Western-backed government and impose a harsh form of Islamic law. But they are fiercely divided over leadership, ideology, and tactics, and have clashed on a number of occasions. Islamic State views Shi’ites as apostates deserving of death.
In the last two years, ISIS has attacked 24 Shi’ite cultural centers, mosques, and schools, said Mohammad Jawad Ghawary, a member of the Shi’ite cleric council.
‘‘In Afghanistan they are the biggest threat for Shi’ites,’’ he said. He called on the Afghan government and the international community to do more to protect Shi’ites.