At least 47 people killed by suicide blasts at mosque in Afghan city of Kandahar

It comes just a week after a suicide attack on worshippers at a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz.

People inspect the scene of the blasts during Friday prayers at Imam Bargah mosque in Kandahar, Afghanistan, 15 October 2021

People inspect the scene of the blasts during Friday prayers at Imam Bargah mosque in Kandahar, Afghanistan, 15 October 2021 Source: EPA

Suicide bombers have attacked a Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar during Friday prayers, killing at least 47 people and injuring scores more.

The assault on the Imam Bargah mosque came just a week after a suicide attack on Shiite worshippers at a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz, which was claimed by the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

IS has claimed responsibility for Friday's attacks, with a statement released on its Telegram channels saying two IS-Khorasan (IS-K) suicide bombers carried out separate attacks on different parts of the mosque in Kandahar - the spiritual heartland of the Taliban - while worshippers prayed inside.

The group, a bitter rival of fellow Sunni Islamist movement the Taliban, which swept back to power in Afghanistan in August as the United States and its allies withdrew, regards Shiite Muslims as heretics.

UK-based conflict analysis firm ExTrac said Friday's assault was the first by IS-K in Kandahar, and the fourth mass casualty massacre since the Taliban took Kabul.

Blast at Shi'ite mosque in Afghan city of Kandahar kills dozens

"Today, on the blessed day of Friday, a brutal attack has been witnessed on a Shiite mosque as a result of which a huge number of our countrymen have lost their lives," Kandahar police chief Maulvi Mehmood said.

In a video statement, Mr Mehmood said security for the mosque had been provided by guards from the Shiite community but that henceforth the Taliban would take charge of its protection.

At least 15 ambulances were seen rushing to and from the scene, as Taliban security threw a cordon around the area.

"We are overwhelmed," a doctor at the city's central Mirwais hospital told the AFP news agency.

"There are too many dead bodies and wounded people brought to our hospital. We are expecting more to come. We are in urgent need of blood. We have asked all the local media in Kandahar to ask people to come and donate blood."

Eyewitnesses spoke of gunfire alongside the explosions, and a security guard assigned to protect the mosque said three of his comrades had been shot as the bombers fought their way in.

Sayed Rohullah told AFP: "It was the Friday prayer time, and when we were preparing I heard shots. Two people had entered the mosque.

"They had opened fire on the guards and in response the guards had also opened fire on them. One of them committed a suicide blast inside the mosque."

"We are saddened to learn that an explosion took place in a mosque of the Shiite brotherhood in the first district of Kandahar city in which a number of our compatriots were martyred and wounded," tweeted Taliban interior ministry spokesman Qari Sayed Khosti.

Inside the mosque, after the blast, the walls were pockmarked with shrapnel and volunteers swept up debris in the ornately painted prayer hall.

Rubble lay in an entrance corridor.

People inspect the scene of the bomb blasts
Source: EPA

The UN mission in Afghanistan tweeted: "The UN condemns (the) latest atrocity targeting a religious institution and worshippers. Those responsible need to be held to account."

The Taliban, which seized control of Afghanistan in mid-August after overthrowing the US-backed government, has its own history of persecuting Shiites.

But the new Taliban-led administration has vowed to stabilise the country, and in the wake of the Kunduz attack promised to protect the Shiite minority now living under its rule.

Shiites are estimated to make up roughly 10 per cent of the Afghan population. Many of them are Hazara, an ethnic group that has been persecuted in Afghanistan for decades.

In October 2017, an IS suicide attacker struck a Shiite mosque in the west of Kabul, killing 56 people and wounding 55.

Published 16 October 2021 at 6:14am, updated 16 October 2021 at 10:13am
Source: AFP - SBS