(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Dozens were killed in Afghanistan Tuesday during a series of coordinated attacks that targeted Shiite Muslims observing their holy day of Ashura.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni extremist group in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the bombings that left at least 63 dead in Kabul, Kandahar, and Mazar-i-Sharif. One U.S. citizen was among those killed in the attacks, the American embassy in Kabul confirmed.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in a statement, "Never in our history have there been such cruel attacks on religious observances. The enemies of Afghanistan do not want us to live under one roof with peace and harmony."
It's believed that this unprecedented instance of sectarian violence in Afghanistan was designed to undermine Karzai's fragile government as well as send a message that other groups besides the Taliban oppose the country's attempt at establishing a Western-style democracy.
For its part, the Taliban denied it was behind the attacks, saying, "We strongly condemn this wild and inhuman act by our enemies, who are trying to blame us and trying to divide Afghans by doing such attacks on Muslims."
Still, there's suspicion that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has not operated in Afghanistan before, might be supported by the Taliban, al Qaeda and extremist militant groups in Pakistan. The country's rogue spy agency, the ISI, may also have a role in the group's operations in order to spark a sectarian feud in Afghanistan between Shiites and Sunnis.
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