29 killed in Afghan mosque attack
HERAT, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber and a gunman killed at least 29 people and wounded 63 at a packed Shiite mosque in Afghanistan’s main western city of Herat on Tuesday, the latest attack to highlight the country’s deteriorating security situation.
The assault on the Jawadya mosque, which is close to Afghanistan’s border with Iran, came a day after the Islamic State group claimed a deadly attack on the Iraqi embassy in Kabul.
The Herat attack was the latest in a series of assaults on Afghanistan’s minority Shiite population.
“The death toll has risen to 29 killed and 63 wounded. Some wounded are in a critical condition so the toll may go up,” hospital spokesman Rafeeq Shirzai said.
Herat police spokesman Abdul Ahad Walizada said the assault happened around 8 pm when “a terrorist attack was carried out on a (Shiite) mosque in the third security district of Herat city”.
“Based on our initial information two terrorists were involved, one of them wearing a suicide vest who detonated himself while the second one was armed with a rifle. They are both dead,” he added.
A reporter said he had seen a number of bodies brought out of the mosque, leading to fears of a heavy death toll.
He reported seeing a body torn to pieces at the entrance, possibly that of the attacker, while others were lying in pools of blood inside, some still crying and moving.
Photos posted on social media showed large crowds had gathered at the hospital.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but IS has been targeting Shiite minority crowds and mosques in Afghanistan for around a year. The Taliban specifically denied that it was involved.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday strongly condemned the attack. In a statement, his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the “attacks that deliberately target civilians are clear violations of fundamental human rights and international humanitarian law”.
IS has been expanding its footprint in eastern Afghanistan and has recently claimed responsibility for several devastating attacks in the capital.
In July last year, IS militants claimed responsibility for twin explosions that ripped through crowds of Shiite Hazaras in Kabul, killing at least 85 people and wounding more than 400.
Relatives assist a wounded man in a hospital after a suicide attack on a mosque in Heart, Afghanistan, on Tuesday.