Suicide blasts at Shia shrine in Afghanistan

Twin blasts hit as hundreds gather to celebrate Ashura, killing at least 24, according to police and media reports
Two separate bomb blasts have hit Shia Muslim shrines in Afghanistan as hundreds of people gathered to mark the day of Ashura, causing at least 24 casualties, according to Afghan police and media reports.
A security official speaking on condition of anonymity told the AFP news agency that a suicide bomber had detonated explosives at the gate of the shrine in Kabul on Tuesday morning, killing at least 20.
“A suicide bomber detonated his explosives in the Abu-Ul Fazil shrine,” Kabul police said in a statement.

Four people were killed in a separate bombing on Tuesday, in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse reporting from blast site, says the police chief confirmed a number of people were killed and many more injured.

Ambulances took those struck by the blast to hospital and people were left scared, yelling at the police for allowing a breach in security – especially that it occurred on a religious holiday.

Our correspondent says despite the incident, calm had been restored and that the generally peaceful city has seen a number of bold attacks in recent months. These include attacks on the US embassy, the Intercontinental hotel and the offices of the British Council, among others.

A district police official said the dead there included at least one district police official. The bomb, which was carried on a bicycle, exploded near a mosque.

It was not immediately clear whether Shia were targeted in that attack.

“It was an explosion not a suicide bombing. It was some explosives hidden in a bicycle,” Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, a police spokesperson for northern Afghanistan, said, adding that four other people had also been injured.

Ashura is an auspicious day in the Muslim calendar that marks a number of significant events throughtout its history.

The blasts occurred as Shias gathered to carry out religious rituals to mark the day, a public holiday in Afghanistan.

Shia were banned from marking Ashura in public under the Taliban. This year, there are more Ashura monuments around the city than usual including black shrines and flags.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either of the blasts from the Taliban or other insurgent groups operating in Afghanistan.

The attacks came shortly after a major conference on Afghanistan’s future, held in the German city of Bonn, 10 years after talks there which put in place an interim government after US-led troops ousted the Taliban.

However, Pakistan and the Taliban – both seen as pivotal to any end to the bloody strife in Afghanistan – decided to stay away from the talks, undermining already modest hopes for real progress.

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