ISIS Claims Deadly Attack on Shiite Mosque in Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan — Suicide attackers stormed a crowded mosque in Kabul during Friday Prayer, officials said, killing at least 20 people and wounding dozens of others in the latest in a series of deadly attacks against Shiites in Afghanistan.
The Islamic State, which previously claimed deadly assaults against Shiite targets in the country, said its militants were behind the attack, according to the group’s Amaq news agency.
Worshipers who had jumped out of windows and fled barefoot from the siege described scenes of panic and bloodshed after gunmen entered the compound in a residential area in the north of the city. The men stormed in after an explosion, believed to have been caused by grenades thrown at security guards at the entrance.
Eidi Muhammad Akbari, who fled to safety, said that hundreds of people had been stuck inside.
“Half of the mosque was full of worshipers — women upstairs and men downstairs, hundreds of men and women,” he said, pacing barefoot. “They threw a grenade inside and then entered.”
Multiple heavy explosions were heard. As plumes of thick smoke rose above the mosque, witnesses said, the Afghan forces tore down a rear wall to rescue dozens of worshipers trapped inside.
“I personally helped evacuate 20 dead bodies, many of them women,” said Sayed Hussain, who managed to get inside the mosque to look for his friends. “They had killed people wherever they found them.”
“We are still transferring casualties to hospitals,” said Mohammed Ismail Kawoosi, a spokesman for the Afghan Health Ministry.
He said that in addition to those killed, at least 40 others were wounded.
Najib Danish, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said three attackers were involved in the siege, which killed at least 10 civilians and three police officers. At least 30 civilians and police officers were wounded.
“The police evacuated 107 people trapped in the mosque,” Mr. Danish said.
But survivors said the death toll might be much higher.
Mohammed Jawad Qurbani, who was trapped in the mosque for three hours before he was rescued by the police, said dozens of men and women tried to hide at the home of the mosque’s imam in the corner of the compound.
“The attackers quickly went upstairs, where women were praying,” Mr. Qurbani said.
Gunfire and explosions were heard as special forces, using drone cameras and accompanied by bomb-sniffing dogs, scrambled to find a way into the compound.
Their armored vehicles came under fire as they tried to enter from the front entrance, one police officer said, and the forces sought to gain access through homes behind the mosque, even as residents tried to flee with their families.
A mother arrived at the security cordon, wailing and begging the police to let her proceed toward the mosque.
“My son is not answering the phone,” she said. “What do I do?”
The police apologized and said they could not allow her to pass because fighting was underway.
Deadly attacks against Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan have increased in recent months, and a local affiliate of the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for many of them. On Aug. 1, the group attacked a Shiite mosque in the western city of Herat during evening prayer, killing almost 40.
The Taliban, which in the past have been behind other deadly attacks in the country, denied responsibility this time.
“We are not involved in today’s attack on a mosque in the Khair Khana area of Kabul,” a Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said in a WhatsApp message
He attributed the attack to unidentified groups “that are trying to create discord within our nation.”