Suicide bombers attacked a Shia mosque in southern Afghanistan that was teeming with worshipers attending weekly Friday prayers, killing at least 37 people and injuring more than 70, according to a hospital official and an eyewitness.
The attack on the Imam Barga mosque came a week after an attack claimed by a local Islamic State affiliate killed 46 people in a Shia mosque in northern Afghanistan.
Murtaza, an eyewitness who, like many Afghans, has only one name, said four suicide bombers attacked the mosque. Two detonated their explosives at a security fence, allowing the other two to run inside and hit the congregation of worshipers.
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Speaking to The Associated Press by phone, he said Friday prayers typically have around 500 people.
Video footage from the scene showed bodies strewn across blood-stained carpets, survivors walking around dazed or screaming in anguish.
An official at the local hospital was not allowed to brief the media and therefore confirmed the death toll on condition of anonymity.
The extremist group, opposed to the ruling Taliban, sees Shia Muslims as apostates deserving of death. IS has claimed responsibility for a number of deadly attacks across the country since the Taliban seized power in August amid the withdrawal of US forces. The group has also targeted Taliban fighters in smaller attacks.
Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi confirmed the explosion and said an investigation was underway, without providing further details.
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The Taliban are committed to restoring peace and security after decades of war. The Taliban and IS both adhere to a rigid interpretation of Islamic law, but IS is much more radical, seeing itself as part of a global Islamic caliphate that includes more well-known branches in Iraq and Syria.
The Taliban and ISIS are Sunni Muslims, but they are bitterly divided by their ideology and have clashed on numerous occasions.
That the Taliban are committed to protecting the Shiite minority in Afghanistan, which suffered persecution during the last period of Taliban rule in the 1990s.
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