Sectarian violence: Gunman kills 14 at Kabul shrine

Some 36 people have been injured in the assault


Reuters October 12, 2016
Afghan policemen stand guard near the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. PHOTO: REUTERS

KABUL: At least 14 people were killed on Tuesday when a gunman in a police uniform opened fire on Shia worshippers gathered at a shrine in the Afghan capital of Kabul, officials said.

Thirteen civilians and one police officer died and 36 people were wounded, said Ministry of Interior spokesman Sediq Sediqqi. Ministry of Public Health officials said at least 43 people had been injured in the incident and had been taken to hospitals in the city for treatment.

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The attack began just before 8pm, police said, with witnesses reporting an explosion followed by gunfire.

“People were gathered inside the shrine for worshiping when the attackers arrived, first they shot the policemen at the gate of the shrine and then they entered the compound,” said Sardar Hedayat.

Anguished worshippers carried the bodies of dead and wounded people from the iconic building, which is covered in brilliant blue tiles. Initial reports put the number of attackers at three, but Sediqqi said police special forces who responded to the scene found and killed only one gunman.

The attacker was dressed in a police uniform, said Jamshid Jan, who witnessed the attack. An angry crowd surrounded and kicked at the suspected attacker’s dead body, with some vowing to burn his remains, before police intervened.

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Security forces at the scene evacuated the shrine as the attack unfolded, said Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. A Taliban spokesman denied any involvement. Afghanistan’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, condemned the shooting and vowed to “hold terrorists (and) their supporters accountable”.

Afghanistan has largely avoided widespread sectarian violence.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2016.

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