‘Every attack is a massacre’: Afghanistan’s Shiite minority increasingly targeted in their places of worship

October 21, 2017 5:46 pm
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Dozens of men gathered in a dust-blown graveyard on Saturday to pay their last respects to 83-year-old Karbalai Mohammad Anwar Noori, one of at least 50 people killed in a suicide bombing the night before at a nearby mosque in western Kabul.

As Noori’s sons and nephews fought back tears, a tall, turbaned cleric stood above the mound of freshly turned dirt where the shroud-wrapped body was laid to rest. Speaking into a microphone, he invoked the words of Imam Jafar Sadiq, the sixth imam in Shiite Islam.

“Those who worship must be cautious and clever,” said the cleric, Abdulaziz Amiri. “It is not only up to the security forces to protect us. We must be prepared at all times and ready for any possible attack.”

Threats are increasing for Afghanistan’s Shiite minority, the targets of a spate of recent attacks that have highlighted the government’s inability to secure places of worship and added a troubling sectarian dimension to the country’s long-running conflict.

In the first nine months of this year, 84 Afghan Shiites were killed and 194 wounded in attacks against mosques or religious gatherings, according to United Nations figures.

Those numbers rose sharply after Friday evening, when a suicide bomber hurled a grenade at worshipers before blowing himself up near the front of the crowded Imam Zaman mosque, which sits along a busy road in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood. Dozens were wounded, officials said.

Like many of the previous attacks — including two at Shiite mosques in Kabul over the summer — the bombing was claimed by Islamic State’s South Asia affiliate. The Sunni extremist group views Shiites as apostates and accuses Afghan Shiites, particularly members of the Hazara ethnic group, of fighting against them in pro-government militias in Syria.

The bombings have become so common that even the perpetrators have seemed to lose track of them. On Friday, Islamic State incorrectly said it had attacked the Imam Zaman mosque for the second time — confusing it with a Kabul mosque by the same name that it had attacked in August, killing about 40 people.

 
 

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