Shi'ite ire after Afghan mosque attack

KABUL • Victims of the latest attack on Shi'ite Muslims in Afghanistan directed their anger squarely at the Afghan government, accusing it of failing to protect them despite repeated attacks.

Suicide bombers and gunmen, some dressed in police uniforms, attacked a mosque in Kabul during prayers last Friday, killing more than 40 people and wounding more than 100, according to mosque leaders. Many of the victims were women trapped on the mosque's second floor.

The United Nations put the preliminary toll at 20 civilians killed and more than 30 wounded, while the Interior Ministry said 28 people died and 50 were wounded.

At least 30 victims were buried yesterday on the grounds of the same mosque as hundreds of family members, friends and other mourners gathered under bullet-marked buildings. Inside the mosque itself, blood was spattered everywhere and the walls were burnt and scarred.

"The government does not care about us," said Mr Akhtar Hussain as he attended the funeral of a relative.

Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-affiliated militants claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest in a number of deadly assaults on Afghanistan's Shi'ite population.

"This latest in a series of attacks targeting members of the Shi'ite community at worship has no possible justification," Mr Toby Lanzer, acting head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

The attacks often take political overtones as members of the Shi'ite minority complain that the government ignores their needs.

"This attack could have been avoided," said Mr Abdul Razaq Sakha, a leader at the mosque. "Our government is guilty in this regard."

Mourners who gathered yesterday said the government should help provide security, otherwise they would take the matter into their own hands.

"A police checkpoint is very close to our mosque but they did not act until terrorists killed and wounded dozens of people," said Mr Mohammad Jahfar Rezaee, whose aunt died in the attack. "The government is deaf so we have to defend ourselves at any cost."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 27, 2017, with the headline 'Shi'ite ire after Afghan mosque attack'. Print Edition | Subscribe