Takfiri Gunmen Attack Crowded Shiite Shrine in Kabul

KABUL, Afghanistan — Gunmen disguised as police officers attacked a Shiite shrine packed with hundreds of worshipers (mourners offering namaz) in the Afghan capital late Tuesday, killing at least 14 people and wounding dozens, officials and witnesses reported.
The assault on the Kart-e-Sakhi shrine in western Kabul came on the eve of Ashura, one of the most solemn holidays in the Shiite calendar, commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
It took elite Afghan forces nearly three hours to declare the last of the assailants dead and the operation over.
The number of gunmen involved in the attack remained unclear. Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry who announced that the operation was over, said one assailant had been killed. Earlier in the evening, Mr. Sediqqi had said that three attackers were involved, one of them shot by police officers and the other two holed up inside the shrine.
“Fourteen people, including one policeman, were killed and 36 others wounded, among them three policemen,” Mr. Sediqqi said.
The attackers used hand grenades and fired indiscriminately, according to Mr. Sediqqi and witnesses. Asghar Kia, 23, who entered the shrine after the operation ended, said he saw at least four victims’ bodies with their hands tied behind their backs. They appeared to have been shot execution-style, he said.
“There was blood all over the shrine walls,” he said.
Sayed Yousuf Hassani, a religious scholar who works at the shrine, said the assailants were dressed in police uniforms.
Jafar Rahimi, 25, a photographer who was at the shrine when the attack began, described a state of panic.
“We cut off the barbed wire to run away,” Mr. Rahimi said. “There was a child, 8 or 9 years old, who had a bullet wound in his hand. We rescued him with us. After we went out of the shrine, we heard an explosion. The attackers were inside the shrine and police were outside.”
Hours later, Afghan forces rushed to the scene of a second attack at a Shiite mosque in the nearby Kart-e-Char neighborhood of the capital.
While sectarian violence targeting the Shiite minority in neighboring Pakistan has increased, such assaults in Afghanistan, where most people belong to the Sunni branch of Islam, have remained relatively infrequent.
But a string of recent attacks has raised concern. The predominantly Shiite Hazaras, one of Afghanistan’s largest ethnic minorities, have been repeatedly abducted while traveling on buses in the southern part of the country. More recently, a bombing claimed by the Islamic State targeted a large protest of Shiite Hazaras, killing at least 80 people.
Security had been heightened at the shrine ahead of Ashura, and officials said the government was aware of threats.


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