Suicide attack on Afghanistan mosque kills at least 47, injures 70

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A Taliban official said suicide bombers attacked a Shia mosque in southern Afghanistan where Friday prayers were held, killing at least 47 people and wounding 70. It was the deadliest day since the withdrawal of US forces.

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There was no claim of immediate responsibility for the massacre at the Fatimiya Mosque in Kandahar province. The attack comes a week after a bombing claimed to be linked to the local Islamic State killed 46 people at a Shia mosque in northern Afghanistan.

The sectarian bloodbath has raised fears that IS – an enemy of both the Taliban and the West – is gaining a foothold in Afghanistan.

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Hafiz Saeed, the Taliban chief of Kandahar’s Department of Culture and Information, said 47 people were killed and at least 70 were injured in the attack.

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Murtaza, a worshiper known by a name to many Afghans, said he was inside the mosque during the attack and had reported four explosions: two outside and two inside. He said the Friday prayers at the mosque usually attract hundreds of people.

Another witness, also named Murtaza, was in charge of security at the mosque and said he saw two attackers. He said that one exploded outside the gate, and the other was already among the worshipers inside the mosque.

He said the security personnel of the mosque shot another suspected attacker outside.

Video footage showed corpses scattered on carpets covered in blood, with survivors walking around in shock or crying out in agony.

The Shia Assembly of Ahl al-Bayt, a Granthshala religious society, condemned the attack in Kandahar, accusing security forces in Afghanistan of being “incompetent” in addressing such attacks.

The Islamic State group, which, like Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban, is made up of Sunni Muslims, sees Shia Muslims as apostates worthy of death.

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IS has claimed several deadliest bombings across the country since the Taliban seized power in August amid the withdrawal of US forces. The group has also targeted Taliban fighters in smaller attacks.

If the attack was carried out by IS, it would be the first major attack by the extremist group in southern Afghanistan, as the US departure enabled the Taliban to consolidate control of the country. Recent attacks in the north, east and the Afghan capital have cast doubt on the Taliban’s ability to counter the threat posed by IS.

Neighboring Pakistan, which has urged world leaders to work with the ruling Taliban, condemned the “hateful attacks on places of worship” in a statement from its foreign ministry.

The Taliban have promised to restore peace and security after decades of war and assured the US that they will not allow the country to be used as a base to launch extremist attacks on other countries.

The Taliban, too, have pledged to protect Afghanistan’s Shia minority, which was persecuted during the last period of Taliban rule in the 1990s.

Both the Taliban and IS adhere to strict interpretations of Islamic law, but IS is far more radical. It has better branches in Iraq and Syria.

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Akhgar reported from Istanbul

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