|A suicide bomber killed 59 Shi’ite worshippers and injured more than 160 others Tuesday outside a Shi’ite shrine in the Afghan capital while bare-chested men were beating themselves to mourn the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (AS).|
A suicide bomber killed 59 Shi’ite worshippers and injured more than 160 others Tuesday outside a Shi’ite shrine in the Afghan capital.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai stopped his trip to Europe after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. He stated the attack on Shiites was unprecedented in scope and marked the first time that one had been carried out during a religious event.
Suspicion centered on militant groups based in neighboring Pakistan where Sunni attacks on minority Shiites are common.
The decade-long Afghan war has largely been spared sectarian violence, where civilians are targeted simply for their membership in a particular religious group. Tuesday's attack suggests that at least some militant groups may have shifted tactics, taking aim at ethnic minorities such as the Hazara who are largely Shi’ite and support the Afghan government.
Tuesday's powerful explosion in Kabul was the deadliest attack in the capital since July 7, 2008, when a suicide car bombing at the gates of the Indian Embassy killed more than 60 people.
The bomb went off shortly before noon as bare-chested men were beating themselves to mourn the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (AS). They had gathered at the Abul Fazl shrine with a blue minaret to mark the Ashura.
Black and gray smoke spiraled skyward from the bomb site after the blast. Lifeless bodies were lying on top of one another. Survivors with blood-smeared faces cried for help.
"It was a very powerful blast," said Mahood Khan, who is in charge of the shrine. "It was out of control. Everyone was crying, shouting. It is a disaster."
At roughly the same time in Mazar-i-Sharif, 185 miles to the north, four other Shi’ites were killed and 21 were wounded when a bomb strapped to a bicycle exploded as a convoy of Shi’ites was driving down a road, said Sakhi Kargar, a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health.
"Without any doubt, the enemies of Afghanistan are trying to separate the Afghan people," Karzai said in a statement. He didn't blame any specific insurgent group, but when he uses the phrase "enemies of Afghanistan," it is widely believed that he is referring to countries, including Pakistan, that he suspects are backing insurgents fighting in Afghanistan.