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Islamic State Claims Attack On Shi'ite Mourners In Kabul

  • RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan

Afghan security officers stand guard near the scene of an attack by suspected militants on Shi'ite Muslims in Kabul on October 11.

Afghan security officers stand guard near the scene of an attack by suspected militants on Shi'ite Muslims in Kabul on October 11.

The Islamic State (IS) extremist group has claimed responsibility for an attack on a shrine in the Afghan capital, Kabul, that killed 18 people, mostly Shi'ite mourners.

IS's affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- known as Khorasan Province -- claimed the attack in an online statement issued on October 12.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said 62 people, including 12 police, were wounded in the attack on the Karte Sakhi shrine, one of the largest in Kabul.

He said that, contrary to earlier reports of three gunmen, only one gunman, who was later gunned down by security forces, attacked the shrine.

In a statement issued on October 12, the United Nations said the "attack deliberately targeting a large group of civilians exercising their right to freely manifest their religion in worship, observance, and practice is an atrocity."

In a statement issued on October 11, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered his condolences to the victims and condemned the attack as a "clear sign of a crime against humanity."

Afghan security forces at the scene had evacuated the shrine, where Shi'ite mourners had gathered nearby to commemorate Ashura, a religious day of mourning and one of the holiest on the Shi’ite calendar.

Ashura commemorates the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, who was killed in 680 and whose death laid the foundation for the Shi'ite faith.

For Shi'ite Muslims around the world, Ashura is a symbol of the struggle against oppression.

The mourning for Ashura reaches its peak on October 12.

In July, an attack claimed by Islamic State (IS) extremists killed 84 people, many of them Shi'a from the ethnic minority Hazara group.

In 2011, 54 people were killed when a suicide bomber attacked another Kabul shrine where hundreds of people had gathered. A Shi'ite mosque in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif was also hit on the same day, leaving four dead.

Kabul police had warned Shi'a -- mostly ethnic Hazara -- against large gatherings as attacks were expected.

With reporting by AP and AFP
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