Afghanistan: Bomb Attacks Targeting Shia Muslims Rock Three Cities On Ashura Festival Day
Almost 60 people have been killed in two bomb attacks apparently targeting Shia Muslims in Afghanistan.
In the capital Kabul a suicide bomber in an explosive vest attacked the Abul Fazl shrine as it was filled with worshippers at midday local time. At least 55 people were killed and 134 wounded, including women and children.
Police said that a second blast in the capital was foiled by officers.
However a separate blast in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif killed another four people when a bomb attached to a bicycle exploded near a mosque. Seven people were wounded, police said.
A third bomb, again at midday, exploded in the southern city of Kanadahar but did not hurt anyone a spokesperson for the province said.
The attacks on the Muslim festival day of Ashura have been described as sectarian in nature.
“Before I arrived at the gate, there was a huge explosion and I fell down,” a government employee, Shuja Ahmad, told Bloomberg. “I saw people running, screaming and crying, and saw bodies everywhere.”
Zabihullah Mujahed, a Taliban spokesman, has denied the group was responsible and claimed "foreign invaders" were to blame.
"It was very loud. My ears went deaf and I was blown three metres," Mustafa, who uses only one name, told the Associated Press.
"There was smoke and red blood on the floor of the shrine. There were people lying everywhere."
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was shocked by the attacks, including one against Shia Muslims in Iraq in Monday that killed at least 28 people.
He added that the international community's pledge towards a long-term commitment in Afghanistan, reiterated at a conference in Bonn, would not be undermined by the latest spate of attacks.
The United States said in a statement that it: "remains undeterred in standing with the Afghan people against the scourge of terrorism in our mutual aim of promoting peace and prosperity".
Over in Lebanon, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Shia Islamist group Hezbollah, made his first public appearance for several years at a rally on Ashura.
He normally speaks via video-link, but on Tuesday he addressed a large crowd in Beirut to tell them that Hezbollah was stronger than ever.