While Pakistan’s interior minister thanked the Taliban for not causing bloodshed there, Afghanistan was not so lucky, and a Pakistan-based jihadist group claimed responsibility. In addition to the slaughter carried out yesterday, the jihadists are knowingly inviting — and hoping for — a wave of retribution in blood. “Afghanistan to consult Pakistan over claim for Kabul massacre,” from CNN, December 7:
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said Wednesday his government will discuss with Pakistan a militant group’s reported claim of responsibility for a deadly suicide strike at a Shiite shrine in Kabul.
An offshoot of the Pakistani-based Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the strike in a call to a radio station, according to news reports. Karzai’s spokesman told CNN the Afghan government wants to huddle with Pakistan over the issue. It is not yet clear if the claim by the group was valid.
Afghanistan said it is investigating the mass-scale sectarian attack on Shiite worshipers, which was unlike anything the country has seen in its decade-long war — in contrast to Iraq, where violence between Shiites and Sunnis has been a major feature of the conflict.
At least 56 people were killed and 193 were wounded, when a suicide bomber detonated a device at a Shiite shrine in Kabul on Tuesday, Afghan Health Ministry spokesman Kargar Norughli said.
Four people also were killed in a Tuesday explosion at a roundabout on a busy street in Mazar-e Sharif, the provincial capital of Afghanistan’s northern Balkh province, police official Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai said. Another 21 were wounded in that attack.
“The enemies tried to spread fear in this important holiday in the city,” Ahmadzai said.
It was not immediately clear whether the attack in Mazar-e Sharif was linked to the attack in Kabul.
Other violence raged in Afghanistan on Wednesday in the southern region. At least 19 people, including women and children, were killed when their bus hit a roadside mine Wednesday, said Daud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the governor of Helmand province. Their bus was traveling from provincial capital Lashkar Gah to Sangin district in the south of the restive province, he said. He said he did not know whether the civilians were the target of the roadside mine planted by the Taliban.
Karzai canceled a visit to the United Kingdom after the Tuesday blasts, which happened on the Shiite holy day of Ashura. A spokesman for the Afghan Embassy in London said Karzai had been due in London late Tuesday from Germany but was flying back to Afghanistan.
Megan Ellis, a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman in Kabul, said Wednesday that an American was among the dead. She added that consular officials were in touch with the family, who would need to consent to the release of further details.
The Taliban denied involvement in Tuesday’s attacks.
A man identifying himself as a spokesman for Lashkar-e-Janghvi al Almi, a group with links to al Qaeda and the Pakistan Taliban, made the claim in a call to Radio Mashaal, a Pashto-language station in Pakistan sponsored by the U.S. government.
The group is an offshoot of the powerful Lashkar-e-Janghvi, which has a record of high-profile suicide bombings in Pakistan, including the attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in 2008.
Afghanistan has seen previous attacks on mosques. In 2006, rioting broke out between Shiites and Sunnis at an Ashura festival in Herat, leading to several deaths. But the country has not seen sectarian attacks of the scale that occurred Tuesday.
Ashura commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. Hussein’s death in battle in Karbala, Iraq, in 680, is one of the events that helped create the schism between Sunnis and Shiites, the two main Muslim religious movements. Shiites are a minority presence in Afghanistan, which is predominantly Sunni.
“There’s still a tendency to see these things in Sunni-Shia terms. But the Middle East is going to have to overcome that.” – Condoleezza Rice, January 2007.
It’s not just the Middle East that’s having a hard time “overcoming” a hatred over thirteen centuries in the making. The Sunni-Shi’ite jihad is not limited to one region.