Holy War: Afghan suicide blasts mar religious holiday
The first blast, which killed at least 55 and wounded 160, occurred Tuesday outside Kabul's Abul Fazl shrine amidst a crowd of men, women and children.
The victims, Shi'ite Muslim revelers celebrating the festival of Ashoura, fell prey to the deadliest attack the country has seen since 2008.
Four more were killed and 17 injured in a smaller blast in the northern city Mazar-i-Sharif, when a bomb strapped to a bicycle detonated outside the city’s main mosque.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed his shock over the attacks during a joint press conference with Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
“This is the first time on such an important religious day in Afghanistan that terrorism of that horrible nature has taken place," he said, according to the Associated Press.
His comments come the day after a global conference on Afghanistan's future was held in Bonn.
In response to the deadly attack, Karzai has canceled a planned visit to the UK to return to Afghanistan.
Ashoura is a Shi’ite Muslim holiday marking the death of seventh-century Imam Hussein. The death of Hussein – the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad – solidified the centuries-long Sunni-Shiite split within Islam.
While Afghanistan had previously managed to avoid the type of sectarian violence that has plagued neighboring Pakistan and Iraq for years, former Afghan MP Daoud Sultanzoy told RT that today’s symbolic attack could be a sign of things to come.
“Perhaps this is just the beginning of a new wave of violence that will try to instigate religious differences in the country because of the freedoms that minorities have been enjoying in the last few years.”
Sultanzoy says the internal and international intrigue surrounding Afghanistan will make it difficult to determine just who was behind the deadly blast that could further destabilize the already war-ravaged country.
“This country has been the center stage of a great game for centuries and it’s very hard to pinpoint one player; there are so many players in this country with so many agendas – and even the clandestine aspects of the game here also have a multidimensional aspect.”
With the latest stage of the great game being played out in Bonn, Sultanzoy was skeptical that an international conference was the right way to determine Afghanistan’s future.
“Because of the Bonn Conference ending yesterday – and of course the regional game that is being played in this country – one can see a regional touch in this situation, by trying to explain to the International community that this region has its own life, and events can turn on their own heads here, and international conferences can mean very little.”