A suicide bomber blew himself up inside a packed Shia mosque in the Kuwaiti capital on Friday, killing at least 27 people in an unprecedented attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.
The militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, which also wounded 227 people according to the interior ministry, in the district of Sawaber in the eastern part of the Kuwaiti capital.
Parliament member Khalil al Salih, who was at the mosque when the attack occurred, said worshippers were kneeling in prayer when the bomber walked into the Imam al Sadeq Mosque and detonated his explosives, destroying walls and the ceiling.
“It was obvious from the suicide bomber’s body that he was young. He walked into the prayer hall during sujood (kneeling in prayer). He looked ...in his 20s, I saw him with my own eyes,” he told Reuters by telephone.
“The explosion was really hard. The ceiling and wall were destroyed,” he said, adding that more than 2,000 people were praying at the mosque. Security forces quickly sealed off the perimeter of the mosque while rescue workers carried the wounded to hospital.
Islamic State named the bomber as Abu Suleiman al Muwahed and said in a statement posted on social media that he had targeted a “temple of the rejectionists” -- a term the militant group generally uses to refer to members of the minority sect, whom it regards as heretics.
Pictures posted on social media and Kuwaiti news websites showed men in traditional white robes smeared with blood outside the mosque. A second photo showed a row of victims wrapped in white body bags and a third the collapsed ceiling of the mosque.
The interior ministry told citizens to stay away from the scene to allow authorities to investigate.
Kuwaiti television showed footage of the emir, Sheikh Sabah al Ahmed al-Sabah, visiting the damaged mosque. Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber al Mubarak al Sabah, who visited the wounded at the Emiri Hospital, condemned the bombing as an attempt to jeopardise Kuwait’s national unity.
“This incident targets our internal front, our national unity,” Sheikh Jaber told Reuters outside the hospital. “But this is too difficult for them and we are much stronger than that.”
Islamic State has recently twice targeted mosques in neighbouring Saudi Arabia and carried out attacks against members of the sect’s Zaydi branch in Yemen.
In a terse statement, the White House condemned the attack, expressing solidarity and efforts to “fight the scourge of terrorism.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2015.