12/07/2011, 00.00
AFGHANISTAN

Al Qaeda claims Kabul massacre. Karzai cuts short European tour

59 confirmed dead and over 160 wounded in two attacks which took place in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif against Shiite pilgrims on the holy day of Ashura. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami, a group linked to Al Qaeda, claims responsibility.
Kabul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - President Hamid Karzai has returned to Afghanistan, cutting short his Europe tour, after two attacks killed 59 people and injured at least 160. Karzai was in Bonn, where from December 5th an international conference on the future of the country is being held. He arrived today in Kabul, and went to visit some of the dozens of people who were victims of the explosions. President Karzai said that such attacks, of a clearly religious matrix, were the first of such a "horrific nature," to have ever occurred in Afghanistan during a celebration of great importance. Yesterday was the final day, and most important, of the ten days of Ashura, the Shiite festival in commemoration of the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Muhammad. Mohammad Bakir Shaikzada, the highest Shiite religious authority in Kabul, in all his life he could not recall such an attack. " This is a crime against Muslims during the holy day of Ashura. We Muslims will never forget these attacks. It is the enemy of the Muslims who are carrying them out. "

The toll of the violence is especially heavy in Kabul, where a suicide bomber blew himself up near the shrine of Abul Fazel, among a crowd of pilgrims. The blast killed 55 people, including women and children. Mahood Khan, head of the holy place, said the explosion occurred in a courtyard where pilgrims flocked to enter the sanctuary to pray. Mustafa was selling food to the pilgrims when the explosion occurred. "It 'was deafening, and I was thrown several meters away. There was blood everywhere, bodies on the floor and screams, "he said. Among the victims was an American citizen. In a statement the U.S. embassy states that ''an American citizen was tragically killed in a suicide attack on December 6''. The Embassy states that ''out of respect for the victims family details of the victims identity will not be disclosed”.

A second explosion took place in Mazar-e-Sharif and killed four people. The Taliban have condemned the attack, calling it "cruel and indiscriminate" and assigning the responsibility to an "invading enemy." The attack was claimed instead by a group called Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami. This is a Sunni extremist group linked to Al Qaeda, author of numerous attacks against the Shiites.

Shiites make up about one fifth of the Afghan population, and are mostly ethnic Hazaras. Thousands of Hazaras were massacred by the Taliban in 1990. The radical Sunnis consider Shiites "infidels" because their traditions and customs differ from those of the majority faith. The last major incident between Sunnis and Shiites in the country dates to early 2006, in Herat, again during Ashura. Five people were killed and 50 were injured.

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