Many die in attack on Shi'ite shrine in Kabul

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By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters
Many die in attack on Shi'ite shrine in Kabul

At least 14 people were killed on Tuesday when a gunman wearing a police uniform opened fire on worshippers gathered for a Shi’ite holy day at a shrine in Kabul.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi said 13 civilians and one police officer died.

36 people were wounded.

What happened?

The attack came just before 8pm local time at the Karte Sakhi shrine.

Witnesses reported an explosion, followed by gunfire.

Security forces at the scene evacuated people from the shrine as the attack unfolded.

Anguished worshippers carried the bodies of the dead and wounded from the iconic building, which is covered in brilliant blue tiles.

How many attackers were there?

Initial reports say there were three.

However, police special forces called to the scene say they found, and killed, only one gunman.

Has anyone claimed responsibility?

Not yet.

A Taliban spokesman has denied any involvement.

One of Kabul’s largest shrines

The attack occurred at one of the Afghan capital’s largest shrines.

Shi’ite Muslims had gathered to observe the holy day of Ashura.

This commemorates the 7th century death of a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.

Is sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims common in Afghanistan?

Not particularly.

The country has largely avoided sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims.

However, the Shi’ite minority has complained of discrimination and increasing threats.

At least 84 people were killed and another 130 injured in a suicide attack on a Shi’ite demonstration in July.

It was claimed by ISIL.

An estimated 80 people died when Ashura gatherings were targeted by suicide bombers in Kabul and the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif in 2011.

What they are saying

“People were gathered inside the shrine for worshiping when the attackers arrived. First they shot the police officer at the gate of the shrine, then they entered the compound,” – Sardar Hedayat