KABUL, Afghanistan (MCT) — Bomb blasts targeting Shiite Muslim gatherings in two Afghan cities killed at least 59 people and injured 150 others Tuesday, a rare outbreak of sectarian violence in a country wracked by 10 years of war with Taliban insurgents.
The noontime blast in Kabul, the capital, involved a suicide bomber hidden among a throng of Shiite worshipers outside the Abul Fazal Abbas shrine, said Gen. Mohammed Zahir, head of criminal investigations for Kabul police.
That attack killed at least 55 people and injured 134 others, according to the country’s Interior Ministry.
At about the same time in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, a bomb hidden in a bicycle detonated near a gathering Shiites, killing at least four people and injuring 16 others, said provincial and Interior Ministry officials.
The bomb exploded as the Shiite procession was heading toward a city shrine, said Gen. Abdul Taj, a top police official in Balkh province, where Mazar-e-Sharif is located.
Gen. John Allen, commander of U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, condemned the violence and blamed Afghan insurgents for the attacks. The Afghan Interior Ministry also accused Afghan Taliban insurgents of being behind the attacks.
It was Kabul’s deadliest attack since a suicide car bomber killed more than 60 people outside the Indian Embassy in July 2008.
Afghanistan’s Muslim population is majority Sunni, but sectarian violence is rare.
Shiites make up roughly 15 percent of Afghanistan’s population.