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A blast outside a mosque in northern Afghanistan Wednesday killed at least 14 Shiite worshippers a day after gunmen targeted a Kabul mosque packed with pilgrims marking a Shiite holy day. The Islamic State group claimed the Kabul attack.
An explosion ripped through a crowd of worshippers gathered to mark Ashura – one of the holiest days for Shiite Muslims — at a mosque in the northern Afghan province of Balkh Wednesday, killing 14 people and wounding 24 others, according to local officials.
Photographs posted on Twitter showed stunned, injured pilgrims sitting on a pickup truck with a number of bodies waiting to be taken to the nearest hospital.
The blast in Balkh, a relatively peaceful province in northern Afghanistan, came the morning after gunmen targeted Shiite worshippers in the Karte Sakhi shrine in the capital, Kabul, on Tuesday night, killing 18 people.
The attack on the Kabul mosque was claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group in a statement posted online.
In its statement, the IS group said the attacker detonated a suicide vest after firing all his ammunition. Afghan security forces however said they shot the man.
Afghanistan’s Shiite minority has come under increasing attacks over the past few months as the IS group, which considers Shiite Muslims apostates, has made inroads in the country.
In July, the IS militants targeted members of Kabul’s Shiite community in a suicide bombing in July that killed more than 80 people and wounded 130.
Afghans outraged over government inaction
The attacker in Kabul, said to be wearing a police uniform, entered the Karte Sakhi mosque on Tuesday night and opened fire on a crowd of Shiite Muslims gathered for Ashura, which marks the seventh-century death of a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.
The dead included four women and two children, said the UN, which condemned the attack as an “atrocity”.
Mourners buried several of the victims, including a four-year-old girl, on Wednesday.
“We are not happy with the government and the police. They both failed to protect us and provide security for us,” said one of the girl’s relatives, Mohammed Hussain, who described the event as “doomsday” for the family.
Community living in fear
Ashura is a Shiite holy day that is typically marked by processions that often include self-flagellation by some worshippers, but government warnings of possible attacks prompted more subdued observation of the event this year.
The Taliban, who have been waging a 15-year insurgency against the Western-backed government and often conduct attacks in Kabul, had denied involvement in the shooting.
Although a primarily Pashtun Sunni movement, the Taliban is not known to engage in a particularly sectarian conflict by spefically targeting Shiites.
The schism between Sunnis and Shiites developed after the prophet Mohammed died in 632 and his followers could not agree on a successor. Some Sunni Muslim militants see Shiites as a threat and legitimate targets for attack.