KABUL: Three suicide bombers killed at least 48 people and wounded dozens on Monday in an explosion at a crowded mosque in the Afghan capital Kabul, officials said.
The attacker entered the Baqir ul Olum mosque during a ceremony, the interior ministry said in a statement.
Fraidoon Obaidi, chief of the Kabul police Criminal Investigation Department, said at least 48 people were killed and 25 wounded and that the total may rise.
“I saw people screaming and covered in blood,” a survivor told Afghanistan’s Ariana Television. He said around 40 dead and 80 wounded had been taken from the building before rescue services arrived at the scene, but there was no independent confirmation of those figures.
The Taliban, seeking to reimpose Islamic law after their 2001 ouster, denied they were responsible for the attack. “We have never attacked mosques as it’s not our agenda,” said the movement’s main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid.
Government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah condemned the attack as a sign of barbarism but said Afghanistan should not fall victim to “enemy plots that divide us by titles”.
Bloody sectarian rivalry between Sunni and Shia Muslims has been relatively rare in Afghanistan, a majority Sunni country, but the attack underlines the deadly new dimension that growing ethnic tension could bring to its decades-long conflict.
Worshippers were gathering to mark the ceremony of Arbaeen, which comes 40 days after the major commemorative service of Ashura.
Ashura commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) who was assassinated on the orders of Ummayad caliph Yezid in the year 680.
Arbaeen marks the end of the mourning period for those martyred in the massacre of Karbala.
Earlier this year a powerful blast targeting Shia Muslims during Ashura killed 14 people in northern Afghanistan. It came days after twin attacks claimed by Islamic State or Daish, which also targeted Shia community and killed 18 in Kabul.
In July, more than 80 people were killed in an attack on a demonstration by the mainly Shia Muslims from ethnic Hazara tribe that was again claimed by Daish