KUWAIT CITY: A suicide bomber blew himself up inside a mosque packed with worshippers in Kuwait city on Friday. At least 25 people were killed and some 200 injured in the first attack of its kind in the major oil-exporting country.
The Islamic State of Syria and Iraq group claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place in the Imam al-Sadiq Mosque in Sawaber district in the eastern part of the Kuwaiti capital.
Parliament member Khalil al-Salih, who was at the mosque when the attack occurred, said worshippers were kneeling in prayer when the bomber walked into the mosque and detonated his explosives, destroying walls and the ceiling.
“It was obvious from the suicide bomber’s body that he was young. He walked into the prayer hall during sujood (kneeling in prayer). He looked …in his 20s, I saw him with my own eyes,” he told Reuters by telephone.
“The explosion was really hard. The ceiling and wall got destroyed,” he said, adding that more than 2,000 people from the Shia Ja’afari school of thought were praying at the mosque.
Security forces quickly sealed off the perimeter of the mosque while rescue workers carried the wounded to hospital.
ISIS named the bomber as Abu Suleiman al-Muwahed and said he belonged to ISIS affiliate Najd Province.
Shia Muslims comprise 30 percent of the predominantly Sunni oil rich state, where members of both communities are known to live side by side with little apparent friction.
ISIS had urged its followers on Tuesday to step up attacks during the fasting month against Christians, Shia and Sunni Muslims fighting against the ultra-hardline jihadist group.
The Health Ministry said Kuwait’s blood bank had opened additional centres to receive blood donations and it urged citizens with non-urgent medical needs to avoid the emergency units.
Pictures posted on social media and Kuwaiti news websites showed men in traditional white robes smeared with blood outside the mosque. A second photo showed a row of victims wrapped in white body bags and a third the collapsed ceiling of the mosque.
Kuwaiti television showed footage of the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, visiting the damaged mosque.
ISIS has recently twice targeted Shia mosques in neighbouring Saudi Arabia and carried out attacks against Shia mosques in Yemen.
The Kuwaiti cabinet went into an emergency meeting to discuss the incident, as the interior ministry raised the level of alert and mobilised all security forces.
The major Sunni group, the Islamic Constitutional Movement condemned what it called “the low criminal attack targeting the (Shia) mosque.”
Kuwait’s leading Sunni cleric, Sheikh Ajeel al-Nashmi, said on Twitter that the bombing is a “criminal act aimed at sowing seeds of discord, and undoubtedly Shias and Sunnis will foil the terrorists’ plot.”
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