58 dead as Shias hit in Afghan shrine blasts

Published: December 6, 2011
Afghan police keep watch after a suicide attack at a Shia Muslim gathering in Kabul December 6, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS

Afghan police keep watch after a suicide attack at a Shia Muslim gathering in Kabul December 6, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS

KABUL: Twin blasts at Afghan shrines on the Shia holy day of Ashura killed at least 58 people on Tuesday with one massive suicide attack in Kabul ripping through a crowd of worshippers including children.

The blast in Kabul and another in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif came a day after an international meeting in Germany meant to further efforts to end the Afghan war, 10 years after US-led forces drove the Taliban from power.

At least 54 people including children were killed in the huge explosion at the entrance to a riverside shrine in central Kabul, where hundreds of Shia Muslims had gathered to mark Ashura, an official said.

“Fifty-four are dead and 150 others are injured,” health ministry spokesman Ghulam Sakhi Kargar Noorughli said.

A young girl, dressed in a green shalwar kameez that was smeared in blood, stood shrieking as she was surrounded by the crumpled, piled-up bodies of children.

“I was there watching people mourning (for Ashura) when there was suddenly a huge explosion,” witness Ahmad Fawad said.

“Some people around me fell down injured. I wasn’t hurt, so I got up and started running. It was horrible,” he said.

Men and women at the scene sobbed as they surveyed the carnage, and screamed slogans denouncing al Qaeda and the Taliban.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either blast. Sectarian violence has been rare in Afghanistan but when the Sunni Taliban ruled in the 1990s, minority Shias from the Hazara group suffered brutal persecution.

Shias were banned from marking Ashura in public under the Taliban. Sectarian violence has not been common in Afghanistan since the Taliban were ousted in late 2001.

“A suicide bomber detonated his explosives in the Abu-Ul Fazil shrine,” Kabul police said in a statement.

A security official speaking on condition of anonymity said it was believed the bomber had arrived with a group of Shia pilgrims from Logar province, south of Kabul.

Separately, four people were killed in Mazar-i-Sharif when another blast struck a shrine in the northern city as crowds gathered for Ashura. It was not immediately clear whether Shias were the target.

Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, a police spokesman for northern Afghanistan, said that the blast was caused by a bicycle bomb, adding that four other people had also been injured.

And police said that five people were wounded by a motorcycle bomb in the southern city of Kandahar, the Taliban’s heartland. But the police said the attack was unconnected to Ashura.

On Monday, at least 28 people were killed and 78 wounded in a wave of bomb attacks in central Iraq against Shia pilgrims making their way to Karbala.

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Reader Comments (22)

  • Ahmad
    Dec 6, 2011 - 5:27PM

    It is very tragic indeed..


  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Dec 6, 2011 - 6:01PM

    What sort of a religion glorifies the murder of unarmed civilians?


  • Meekal Ahmed
    Dec 6, 2011 - 6:03PM

    Well, if we don’t kill them here, they will kill them next door — or in Bahrain where our security forces have gone to help.

    And we call Blackwater/Xe “mercenaries”?


  • Ali Mardan
    Dec 6, 2011 - 6:35PM

    Remnants of Yazeed showed their ugly face yet again by targeting innocent men, women and children. Recommend

  • Mustafa Kamal
    Dec 6, 2011 - 6:56PM

    And the world is negotiating these blockheads.. Recommend

  • Afghan_Pakhtun
    Dec 6, 2011 - 7:12PM

    This is a rare incident in Afghanistan. Shiites and Sunnis enjoy a joint social life and even share family relationships among each other here in Afghanistan, unlike in other sectarian violence stricken countries like Iraq and Pakistan. And, whoever has been involved in today’s incident, has tried to sabotage the pleasant social links between this two sects.
    Since, the Afghan Taliban has no history of sectarian violence in Afghanistan and nor has any sectarian group been operating in the country; therefore the chance of the involvement of an ‘external hand’ is more obvious. Might be the work of barbaric fanatics who target Shiites ‘next door’ too.
    May all they rest in peace who have lost their lives in today’s incident.


  • Sunny
    Dec 6, 2011 - 7:21PM

    There is only one regime which is the root cause of all problems of muslims around the world and that is the House of Saud in Hejaz. As a regional US agent, the regime is again hurting Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan.


  • Katua
    Dec 6, 2011 - 7:41PM

    why cant they all live in peace?


  • antanu
    Dec 6, 2011 - 7:55PM

    @Ali Mardan:
    yes….why cant people come together and fight this menace?


  • j. von hettlingen
    Dec 6, 2011 - 8:04PM

    Is this tragic incident really an act of violence as a result of sectarian divide? In the past “sectarian violence has been rare in Afghanistan”! So who did it!
    Although the Shia Muslims were persecuted and the marking Ashura was banned under the Taliban rule, it’s a big question-mark whether the Taliban were really behind these atrocities. Other armed forces could equally have committed the crime to create a sense of fear and insecurity.


  • antanu
    Dec 6, 2011 - 9:08PM

    Taleban has condemned the heinous crime….then who did it? Wake up Afghanistan and refuse US presence in your country for another decade….US is behind this slaughter to convince you of their presence in Afghanistan.


  • Noise
    Dec 6, 2011 - 9:50PM

    The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al alami has claimed responsibility.


  • Shahid Kureshi
    Dec 6, 2011 - 10:22PM

    There is no doubt in my mind that the ISAF and Nato are the sponsors of this henious act.


  • Ahmad
    Dec 6, 2011 - 11:42PM

    Unbelievable catastrophe, may God punish those who were involved in this massacre. May God forgive all these Martyred innocents people men, women, and children. This action was inhumanly. Why doesn’t this Regime of Saudi Arabia let people to have freedom of religion? What is their problem with other religion?Why don’t let innocents people to live in peace, let them to worship whatever they believe in, religion is something personal , it depends to the person to worship or not. Why would bother someone based on their religion Recommend

  • Dec 7, 2011 - 2:08AM

    Will anyone disagree that terrorists are the biggest enemy of peace? By killing over 60 people on the day of Ashura, did they not show that they do not even care about the sanctity of one of the holiest days of the Muslim calendar? Our condolences go out to the Afghan nation and especially the families of all who were killed and injured. Terrorists may take any name, but their mission is to kill and destroy. No religion allows the killing of innocents in any circumstances. These terrorists have been killing without remorse for the last decade.

    We have been so focused on organizations like the Afghan Taliban, TTP, Haqqani Network, and the Quetta Shura that we have not put our focus on smaller organizations that have been following the footsteps of the Taliban terrorists. They have the same ambitions and agenda. Today’s suicide attack proves that. It also proves that it is even more important for all who have stake in the region’s peace to work together in eliminating all terror groups so peace is given a chance.

    Maj David Nevers
    DET-United States Central Command


  • You Said It
    Dec 7, 2011 - 4:35AM

    Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has taken responsibility for this bombing. LeJ and Malik Ishaq have been given a free reign by the establishment, and even been thanked by Rehman Malik this Muharram.

    Shias are opposed to the Taliban, due to the Taliban’s atrocities against Shias during their rule. Was this attack on Afghan Shias instigated by the Pakistani establishment’s veritable arm to avenge the Nov 26 Salala incident while at the same time striking against those opposed to Pakistan’s strategic depth.


  • Shafiq Nasery
    Dec 7, 2011 - 10:01AM

    May Allah Bless them with his mercy and they may now rest in peace. Long Live Islam


  • Raja Nowsherwan Kiani
    Dec 7, 2011 - 2:58PM

    indeed a tragic incident and Lej is a terrorist group that is constantly involved in alienating sectarian violence ,,, \Some body should deal it with iron hands…


  • Ali
    Dec 7, 2011 - 10:07PM

    Those who want Muslims to be divided are doing a good job.


  • Dec 8, 2011 - 1:00AM

    @Shahid Kureshi:

    It’s deluded conspiracy scapegoating that defies logic which only aims at xenophobic confirmation bias and denialism for the sake of self comfort and not taking responsibility for the hate that’s given rise to the local threats. There’s all the historic proofs of Sunni-Shia sects and sub-sects hate, violence and oppression committed by extremist sectarian terrorists and even sectarian prejudiced mainstream governments around the globe by Muslims themselves.


    You trust the hypocritical Taliban’s words? Same dudes who claimed to protect civilians and then blow them up at Masjids on Eid morning the next day? Also have connections with LeJ and Al Qaeda who’ve committed anti-minority atrocities as well?

    The Taliban too has a track record of massacring and oppression of Afghan Shias, notably Hazaras, banning their processions and practices…was that the US too?! You think the Taliban will fantastically stop their extreme violence against the minority or majority after the US disappears? Think again.


  • Dec 8, 2011 - 1:37AM

    While it’s becoming apparent that the deadly attack was from a Punjab based sectarian terrorist group, you are still very mistaken on Afghanistan’s sectarian history and Afghan Taliban’s role in it with connections to such groups.

    They may not have made it as much a contentious issue as hate groups in Pak, however they did indulge in oppression despite the relative calm, yet TENSE, backdrop of Afghanistan’s sectarian history, such as banning Shia processions or public religious displays, discriminating them going as far as massacring Hazaras.

    Even while seeking refuge in Kurram agency, they indulged in sect targeting of Pakistani Shia tribe locals on the highways they hi-jacked and occupied with the local Pak Taliban and some radicals from the Sunni tribes.

    The Taliban have always had a Deoband/Wahhabi/Salafi background, therefore intolerant due to their extremist Takfir ideology. Afghan Shias had only recently started to openly practice their processions since 2001. It was just a matter of time. If not them, then their violent partners who they have connections to…at the end they are all terrorists.


  • Hazara Khan
    Dec 8, 2011 - 2:21AM

    Terrorists are the biggest enemy of peace, where ever they are or belong to! Such a barbaric incident, that normal human being condemns. I urge the game players to think of their own family once before slaughtering innocent people.

    These incidents can not minimize the upcoming of peace-loving communities of the region.


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