The death toll from Monday’s suicide attack at a Shia mosque in the Afghan capital Kabul rose to at least 27 people, with 35 wounded, police said.
The attacker entered the Baqir ul Olum mosque during a ceremony, the interior ministry said in a statement.
Fraidoon Obaidi, chief of the Kabul police Criminal Investigation Department, said at least 27 people were killed and 35 wounded when the explosion tore through the worshippers.
“I saw people screaming and covered in blood,” a survivor told Afghanistan’s Ariana Television. He said around 40 dead and 80 wounded had been taken from the building before rescue services arrived at the scene, but there was no independent confirmation of those figures.
Although Afghanistan has not suffered sectarian violence comparable to that experienced by many Middle Eastern countries, the attack underlines the deadly new dimension that growing ethnic tension could give to its decades-long conflict.
Bloody sectarian rivalry between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims has been relatively rare in Afghanistan, a majority Sunni country, but the attack underlines the deadly new dimension that growing ethnic tension could bring to its decades-long conflict.
Government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah condemned the attack as a sign of barbarism but said Afghanistan should not fall victim to “enemy plots that divide us by titles”.
“This attack targeted innocent civilians – including children – in a holy place. It is a war crime & an act against Islam & humanity,” he said in a message on his Twitter account.
In July, more than 80 people were killed in an attack on a demonstration by the mainly Shi’ite Hazara minority that was claimed by Islamic State militants.
The Taliban, seeking to reimpose Islamic law after their 2001 ouster, condemned that attack and have declared that their fighters have been ordered to prevent civilian casualties as far as possible.