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Entries in Holy Holiday (2)

Wednesday
Dec072011

Pakistani Extremist Group Says It Attacked Shiites in Afghanistan

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images(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.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec062011

Dozens Killed, Injured in Attacks During Holy Holiday in Afghanistan

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty ImagesUPDATE: The Taliban has issued a statement denying any kind of involvement in Tuesday's attacks in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.

(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- For the first time, militants targeted Shiite mourners in Afghanistan on one of their holiest holidays Tuesday, setting off bombs in downtown Kabul and the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, according to police officials.

In the most significant attack, at least 54 people were killed and 164 injured, according to the Afghan health ministry, when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Abul Fazel Shrine in the middle of Kabul, not far from the ministry of defense and the presidential palace.  Reporters at the shrine described a horrific scene, with bodies of the dead and injured strewn across the entry of the shrine and the street outside.

Almost simultaneously, a bomb hidden in a bicycle exploded by a Shiite shrine in Mazar-e-Sharif, the largest city in northern Afghanistan, near the border with Uzbekistan.  Four were killed and 21 others were injured in that attack, according to police.

Tuesday is Ashurra, a national holiday in many Muslim countries that marks the death of the prophet’s grandson Hussein -- an event that helped cement the separation of Shia and Sunni Islam.  Shiites mark the day by mourning, often beating or cutting themselves to reenact the pain that Hussein suffered.

There has been horrible violence on Ashurra in Iraq over the years -- as well as in Pakistan -- but never in Afghanistan, which is why Tuesday's attack is troubling.  The Afghan Taliban is an almost entirely Sunni group, but there has not been major sectarian violence in Afghanistan since the initial U.S. invasion in 2001.  The worry is that this will set off more sectarian attacks and instability in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio