Grenade-hurling attackers kill at least 20 and wound 80 more by spraying worshippers with bullets before detonating suicide bomb at Afghan mosque
- A suicide bomber attacked the Jawadya mosque in Afghanistan’s Herat province
- Bomb hit during evening prayers Tuesday, when 300 people were in the mosque
- Witnesses said up to 100 people were dead and wounded across the mosque
- There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday night’s attack
A suicide bomber stormed into the largest Shiite Muslim mosque in Afghanistan’s Herat province, killing at least 20 and wounding dozens more, said the provincial governor’s spokesman Jalani Farhad.
Mehdi Hadid, a politician from Herat who went to the site soon after the explosion, said the scene was one of horrific carnage, suggesting that at least 100 dead and wounded were scattered throughout the mosque.
The attack took place in the middle of evening prayers when the Jawadya mosque was packed with about 300 worshippers.
Abdulhai Walizada, a local police spokesman, said there appeared to be more than one attacker, with a suicide bomber who detonated explosives and another who threw grenades at worshippers.
Shiites are a minority in Afghanistan and have been threatened by the affiliate of the Islamic State group that operates in the country’s east.
At Herat Main Hospital, Dr Mohammed Rafique Shehrzai confirmed 20 bodies were brought to the hospital in Herat city, the capital of western Herat province, soon after the blast.
‘More than 20 bodies, and more than 30 wounded have so far been brought to the hospital,’ after the mosque attack, Rafeeq Shirzai, a spokesman for the hospital, told AFP.
Herat police spokesman Abdul Ahad Walizada said the assault happened around 8.00pm local time when ‘a terrorist attack was carried out on a (Shiite) mosque in the third security district of Herat city’.
‘Based on our initial information two terrorists were involved one of them wearing a suicide vest, who detonated himself while the second one was armed with a rifle. They are both dead,’ he added.
Afghan interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish initially said he thought it was a car bomb and tweeted that there was a possibility that it was a improvised explosive device.
Mr Hadid said he rushed to the mosque after hearing about the explosion.
He was told the attacker first fired on the private guards outside the mosque before entering.
When inside, he fired on the praying worshippers until his rifle jammed then he blew himself up.
The attack comes a day after an attack on the Iraqi embassy in Kabul, which was claimed by the Islamic State group (IS), killed two people.
IS has been expanding its footprint in eastern Afghanistan and has recently claimed responsibility for several devastating attacks in Kabul.
But experts have previously questioned whether there are direct links between the group’s local affiliate Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-K) and the central IS command.
On Monday a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Iraqi embassy, allowing at least three other militants to breach the compound, unleashing an hours-long gun battle.
The interior ministry later confirmed that two people – a woman and a guard – had died and two were policemen injured.
A security source, who declined to be named, said IS could prove to be more dangerous than the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Unlike the Taliban which has friends and foes among the international community, IS considers everyone their enemy and will keep attacking soft targets, he said.