Shi­ites protest deadly Afghan at­tack

Tale­ban bomber at­tacks NATO con­voy

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

Thou­sands of Shi­ite protesters chanted slo­gans against the Is­lamic State group yes­ter­day as they car­ried the coffins of vic­tims of a mosque at­tack that killed 33 peo­ple in the western Afghan city of Herat. Up to 5,000 an­gry mourn­ers, in­clud­ing rel­a­tives of the dead, con­gre­gated near the site of Tues­day’s sui­cide bomb at­tack as IS claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the lat­est atroc­ity tar­get­ing the mi­nor­ity com­mu­nity. “Death to Daesh (IS)!” and “Down with fun­da­men­tal­ism”, the demon­stra­tors chanted, as the coffins were brought one by one and placed in a re­frig­er­ated lorry near the Jawadya mosque.

The mourn­ers, who were set to march to the ceme­tery to bury their dead, also de­manded that the gov­ern­ment bring the per­pe­tra­tors to jus­tice and pledged to “take re­venge” if it did not. Ji­lani Farhad, a spokesman for the gov­er­nor of Herat province, said the death toll from the at­tack, in which two sui­cide bombers throw­ing grenades stormed the packed mosque, had risen to 33. An­other 66 were wounded. It came a day af­ter IS claimed a deadly as­sault on the Iraqi em­bassy in Kabul as it ex­tends its foot­print in the war-torn coun­try.

Un­der­scor­ing the na­tion’s in­se­cu­rity, a Tal­iban sui­cide bomber yes­ter­day rammed a ve­hi­cle filled with ex­plo­sives into a con­voy of for­eign forces in the restive south­ern province of Kandahar, caus­ing an un­spec­i­fied num­ber of ca­su­al­ties. Shi­ites, a mi­nor­ity of around three mil­lion in over­whelm­ingly Sunni Afghanistan, have reg­u­larly been tar­geted by IS ji­hadists over the last year. They ac­cuse po­lice and troops of fail­ing to pro­tect them.

“I lost all my loved ones, they even killed chil­dren as young as seven. This wasn’t an at­tack on Shi­ites, this was an at­tack on all Afghans, all Mus­lims,” Farhad Dost, whose cousin died in the as­sault, said. Mem­bers of the Shi­ite com­mu­nity said po­lice had fled their check­post, around 100 me­ters from the mosque, af­ter the two at­tack­ers struck at around 8:00 pm (1530 GMT) on Tues­day.

Died in my hands

An­gry lo­cals then clashed with the po­lice and set the check­post on fire, ac­cord­ing to wit­nesses who re­ported that of­fi­cers opened fire, in­jur­ing some demon­stra­tors.

The gov­er­nor’s spokesman said the po­lice chief of the dis­trict had been sus­pended for “neg­li­gence” and a del­e­ga­tion from Kabul had been sent to in­ves­ti­gate the at­tack. In a state­ment Wed­nes­day, IS’s pro­pa­ganda out­let Amaq claimed it had killed “around 50 Shi­ites” and wounded 80 more in the at­tack, which also left young chil­dren dead.

Wit­nesses de­scribed scenes of ter­ror and chaos, with emer­gency wards over­whelmed and sur­vivors rush­ing vic­tims to hos­pi­tal in their own ve­hi­cles and even on foot. “There weren’t enough am­bu­lances... I tried to take a small child to hos­pi­tal but he died in my hands,” Ali, who only gave one name, said. Farhad Af­shar rushed to the mosque, where wor­ship­pers had gath­ered for prayers, af­ter hearing the ex­plo­sion.

“When I ar­rived the mosque was full of flesh and blood. I saw a mother cry­ing and search­ing for her two chil­dren. She found one them wounded in­side the mosque, the other was found dead in an am­bu­lance,” he said.

Quot­ing sur­vivors, he said the at­tack­ers first opened fire on the wor­ship­pers, then threw grenades be­fore fi­nally blow­ing them­selves up in­side the mosque. IS has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for a se­ries of at­tacks killing dozens of Shi­ites in Kabul over the past year, in­clud­ing twin ex­plo­sions in July 2016 that ripped through crowds of Shi­ite Hazaras, killing at least 85 peo­ple and wound­ing more than 400.—AFP

HERAT: Protesters shout slo­gans dur­ing a demon­stra­tion in western Herat province of Afghanistan. — AP

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