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Shocked by attack on second mosque in Afghanistan in a week

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Afghanistan: Taliban members stand guard near a mosque after an explosion in Kandahar province.

Kandahar:

Sardar Mohammad Zaidi, the imam of the Fatima Mosque in the Afghan city of Kandahar, was nearing the end of Friday prayers when gunfire and explosions signaled the start of the second attack on a Shia mosque in a week.

The mosque, also known as the Imam Bargah Mosque, is the largest of about 40 Shia mosques in Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city in the south of the country near the border with Pakistan.

Zaidi, who had been the mosque’s imam for 20 years, told Reuters by telephone, “We were almost done praying, at the end of the prayer, I heard gunshots.”

He said four suicide bombers tried to break into a mosque filled with around 3,000 worshipers, but two were shot by guards at the entrance before they could detonate their explosives.

Confused, two others were able to enter before blowing themselves up, killing at least 35 worshipers and injuring 68. Zaidi said the toll could have been much worse.

“If all four managed to get in, it would have been disastrous, and you can imagine what would happen,” he said.

After an Islamic State attack on a Shia mosque in the northern city of Kunduz last week that killed 80 people, the Shia community, which accounts for about 10-15% of the country’s population, has been shaken.

Although no public claim of responsibility has yet been made, Zaidi said he had no doubt that Islamic State was behind the attack. But the fact that he attacked Kandahar, the center of the Taliban movement ruling Afghanistan, was a shock.

“When the Taliban came, we did not think that such incidents would happen in Kandahar. “There were incidents in Kabul, Kunar, but we never thought it would happen in Kandahar. Nobody warned us about any danger.”

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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