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'This is absolute barbarism': Kabulis come to grips with string of bombings

Afghan men carry the body of a victim who was killed in Friday night's suicide attack at the Shiite mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, The Islamic State group is claiming responsibility for a suicide bombing attack on a Shiite mosque i
AP Photo/Rahmat Gul
In recent weeks more than 400 civilians were given training and weapons to boost security at Shiite mosques

The smell of death permeated the Imam Zaman mosque in Kabul on Saturday hours after dozens of Shiite worshippers were slaughtered by a suicide bomber during evening prayers.

Broken glass and dust covered the red carpet, soaked in the blood of the men, women and children who had been praying on Friday when the attacker blew himself up, causing carnage in the cavernous prayer hall.

The interior ministry said 56 people were killed and 55 others wounded in the assault claimed by the Islamic State group -- one of two deadly mosque attacks on Friday -- yet another horrific event in one of the bloodiest weeks in Afghanistan in recent memory.

Within 24 hours, yet another blast echoed through the capital: at least 15 military cadets were killed by a suicide bomber in a western district of the city on Saturday afternoon. 

"The windows of the mosque were broken, and blood and human flesh were spattered everywhere and you could smell blood and human flesh inside the mosque," Ibrahim, who rushed to the mosque after the blast, told AFP.

"This is absolutely barbarism. What kind of Islam is this? They are attacking worshippers at the time of prayers. Even mosques are not safe for us to pray."

AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

People expressed anger at the government's inability to protect its citizens in the Afghan capital, which accounted for nearly 20 percent of the country's civilian deaths in the first half of the year. 

"If our government officials cannot protect us they have to resign and let other competent officials take charge," an eyewitness said.

In recent weeks more than 400 civilians were given training and weapons to boost security at Shiite mosques in Kabul, which have been targeted by IS militants, but Ibrahim said women entering the Imam Zaman were not checked. 

"We believe the bomber had worn a woman's long veil and sneaked into the mosque and detonated himself among the worshippers," said Ibrahim, a community leader.

Hours after the suicide bombing, the Taliban fired two rockets at the headquarters of NATO's Resolute Support mission in the heavily fortified diplomatic quarter of Kabul.

There were no reports of casualties but the attack came after the militants launched four deadly assaults on police and military bases in recent days.

AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

A suicide bomber also killed 20 people and wounded 10 at a mosque in the impoverished and remote central province of Ghor on Friday, the interior ministry said. 

Including the victims of the two mosque attacks on Friday, the death toll for the week stands at around 200.

Early Saturday dozens of anxious relatives, some of them crying, stood outside the Kabul mosque's main gate, which had been cordoned off by heavily armed police, as they waited for news of the whereabouts of their loved ones.                  

'Worshippers covered in blood'                  

An eyewitness told AFP that the attacker detonated his explosive device among the worshippers towards the end of the prayer session.

"It was one suicide bomber packed with explosives and hand grenades wrapped around his body," the man said. 

The dead and wounded were taken to hospitals around the city but people complained that it had taken emergency services more than an hour to arrive at the scene.

Hundreds of sandals littered the entrance to the mosque, left behind by the worshippers killed and wounded in the latest deadly attack on a Shiite mosque by IS, who belong to the rival Sunni branch of Islam. 

A woman wearing a hijab sobbed as she crouched on the ground searching for the shoes of her brother and young nephews who died in the attack.

WAKIL KOHSAR (AFP)

"I was in the mosque ablution area when I heard a blast. I rushed inside the mosque and saw all the worshippers covered in blood," Hussain Ali told AFP shortly after the explosion.

"Some of the wounded were fleeing. I tried to stop someone to help me help the wounded but everyone was in a panic. It took ambulances and the police about an hour to reach the area."

The force of the blast shattered all the windows of the mosque. Its walls and ceiling were covered with dark blood spatters and peppered with shrapnel.

Plastic sandals were caught in the razor wire on top of the perimeter wall after being flung out the windows.

Several men moved around the room picking up dozens of coloured prayer beads, Koran holy books as well as chunks of plaster and shards of glass on the floor.

"What kind of Muslims are they? What is our government doing?" Rasoul, a shopkeeper in the area, exclaimed through sobs.

"We are tired of living here, we are not even safe inside the holy sites."

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