IS claims deadly suicide attack on Shiite mosque in Afghanistan's Kandahar
KANDAHAR, Oct 16: The Islamic State group on Saturday claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on a Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar that killed at least 41 people and injured scores more.
The Friday assault came just a week after another IS-claimed attack on Shiite worshippers at a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz that killed more than 60 people.
In a statement released on its Telegram channels, the jihadist group said two Islamic State-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.
ExTrac researcher Abdul Sayed told AFP the attack was "challenging the Taliban claims of holding control on the country. If the Taliban can't protect Kandahar from an IS-K attack, how could it protect the rest of the country?"
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. In the wake of the explosions, Kandahar police chief Maulvi Mehmood said "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".
In a video statement, 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.
Hafiz Abdulhai Abbas, director of health for Kandahar, told AFP 41 people had been killed about 70 wounded, according to hospital information.
At least 15 ambulances were seen rushing to and from the scene, as Taliban security cordoned off the area.
"We are overwhelmed," a doctor at the city's central Mirwais hospital said. -AFP