Dozens of people were killed and more than 70 injured after a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque in southern Afghanistan today.
The attack occurred during Friday prayers in the Fatemieh Mosque in Kandahar, the city’s largest Shiite place of worship.
According to a hospital official, at least 37 people were killed and more than 70 injured, according to initial official figures, although local sources warned that this is likely to increase.
No group has taken responsibility yet, but one week after an ISIS-K bomb attack on Shiite believers in the northern city of Kunduz, more than 100 people came.
Three bomb explosions hit the Fatemieh Mosque during Friday prayers, which is considered the largest Shiite prayer house in the Afghan province of Kandahar
Witnesses said a bomb exploded near the entrance to the mosque while another exploded in an area where people wash
Witnesses to today’s attack reported multiple explosions in different parts of the mosque, although officials only confirmed the presence of one suicide bomber.
Murtaza, who like many Afghans has only one name, said he was inside the mosque during the attack and reported four explosions: two outside and two inside. He said Friday prayers in the mosque usually attract around 500 people.
However, officials added that they have “opened an investigation to find out more”.
Medical sources said at least 15 ambulances rushed to the scene to pick up the wounded, while a local doctor told AFP that hospitals were “overwhelmed”.
“Too many bodies and wounded are being brought to our hospital. We expect more to come,” he said.
“We urgently need blood. We asked all local media in Kandahar to ask people to donate blood. ‘
A local resident who identified himself only as Ahmadullah said, “The shooting started after we finished the prayers. Then there were two or three explosions.
“Many people, martyrs and wounded, lay there. I don’t know what happened later. ‘
ISIS-K is the Afghan branch of the terrorist group and has stepped up attacks in Afghanistan since the Taliban regained control in August.
The latest attack is significant because it took place in Kandahar, the homeland of the Taliban.
Many Afghans supported the Taliban regaining control because they believed the Islamist group could bring security and stability.
The attack on Kandahar (pictured) comes exactly one week after an explosion in another Shiite mosque in Kunduz, in which more than 100 people were killed
A man walks through a partially destroyed corridor of the Fatemieh Mosque – also known as Imam Bargah – after it was hit by three bomb explosions on Friday
Shiites make up around 10 percent of the Afghan population and many of them are of the Hazara ethnic group.
Shiite Muslims are frequent targets of ISIS, whose followers are Sunnis and consider the former sect to be an effective traitor to the faith.
The Taliban, who are also Sunnis, have their own history of persecuting Shiites, and especially the Hazara, who were fighting the group when it first emerged.
Interior Ministry spokesman Qari Sayed Khosti tweeted: “We are sad to learn that an explosion took place in a mosque of the Shiite Brotherhood in the first district of Kandahar city, in which several of our compatriots were tortured and wounded.
“Special forces from the Islamic Emirates have arrived in the region to investigate the nature of the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
According to an AFP journalist, the mosque was full of people at the time of the explosions and at least 15 ambulances were on site.
Graphics posted on social media that could not be verified immediately showed bodies lying on the floor of the Fatemieh Mosque.
ISIS-K took responsibility for last week’s bomb explosion and often targets Shiite Muslims for disagreeing with its fundamentalist vision of Islam
Through the Haqqani network, ISIS-K has connections to the Taliban – a mercenary force of the Haqqani family, whose members are part of the new Afghan government.
But the two groups are ideologically opposed and have been at war since 2015, when ISIS-K was founded in Afghanistan.
Founded at the height of the so-called ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria, ISIS-K was intended to expand the group’s reach into Afghanistan.
It has recruited fighters from the ranks of the Taliban who believed the group was not extreme enough, creating a rift between the group’s leaders.
Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, a senior Taliban leader, then wrote a letter to ISIS spiritual leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, suggesting that any expansion of the IS caliphate into Afghanistan should only take place under the Taliban banner .
This sparked fighting between the two groups that lasted until 2019 when a series of defeats effectively prevented ISIS-K from fighting traditional battles.
When an Afghan peace agreement was signed with Donald Trump in Doha in 2020, the Taliban pledged to keep terror groups such as ISIS-K out of Afghanistan.