A suicide bomber and a gunman killed at least 29 people and wounded 63 at a packed Shiite mosque in Afghanistan’s main western city of Herat tonight, the latest attack to highlight the country’s deteriorating security situation. The assault on the Jawadya mosque in Herat, which is close to Afghanistan’s border with Iran, came a day after the Islamic State group claimed a deadly attack on the Iraqi embassy in Kabul. “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 8:00 pm (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.
A reporter for AFP said he had seen a number of bodies brought out of the mosque, leading to fears of a heavy death toll. He reported seeing a body torn to pieces at the entrance, possibly that of the attacker, while others were lying in pools of blood inside, some still crying and moving. 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.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but IS has been targeting Shiite minority crowds and mosques in Afghanistan for around a year. 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. Yesterday, 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.