Attacks on Afghan Shiites raise specter of Iraq-like violence
A suicide bomber killed dozens of Shiite Muslims in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday. It was the deadliest bombing in Kabul since 2008.
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"It's very rare if not the first of its kind, and to me it seems like it is the work of those elements that are allied with al Qaeda, that would like to disrupt any process of reconciliation between the Taliban and the government," said Kamran Bokhari, from intelligence firm Stratfor.Skip to next paragraph
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"From their point of view the way to accomplish that is to exploit these pre-existing fault lines."
ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Shortly after the Kabul blast, a bicycle bomb exploded near the main mosque in northern Mazar-i-Sharif city, killing four, injuring 17 and sparking a fight at a university mosque where Shi'ites and Sunnis were both praying.
"Enemies wanted to target the Muslim precession attending prayer, but because of tight security they failed," the city's senior police detective, Abdul Raoof Taj, told Reuters.
Four people were injured in the mosque scuffle, which broke out when worshippers began arguing about the blast.
Police later defused a mine, found near the site of the explosion and likely intended to target rescuers and security forces attending to victims of the bomb.
A motorbike bomb also appeared to be aimed at Shi'ite worshippers in southern Kandahar city, the Taliban's spiritual home and centre of a strong push by NATO-led troops to push the insurgents out of their stronghold.
It exploded prematurely, injuring two policemen and three civilians, but causing no deaths.
"We cannot say for certain who the bomber's target was, but it was probably the Ashura (ceremonies)," said Kandahar police chief Abdul Raziq.
"We have 100 per cent security. The enemies cannot enter the prayer sites. With such actions they want to show they exist."
The NATO-led coalition fighting in Afghanistan, the United Nations and the U.S. embassy all condemned the attack.
Ashura is the biggest event in the Shi'ite Muslim calendar, when large processions are vulnerable to militant attacks, including suicide bombings. Pakistan has deployed tens of thousands of paramilitary soldiers and police during Ashura.
Blood has spilled between Pakistan's majority Sunni and minority Shi'ite militants for decades.
Sectarian strife has intensified since Sunni militants deepened ties with al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban insurgents after Pakistan joined the U.S.-led campaign against militancy after the Sept. 11 attacks.
(Additional reporting by Omar Sobhani, Daniel Magnowski and Jan Harvey, writing by Emma Graham-Harrison, Editing by Nick Macfie)