KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber slipped undetected into a Shiite Muslim mosque in eastern Afghanistan on Friday killing at least 25 people and wounding at least 23, a provincial government official said.
The attacker blew himself up as worshippers gathered in the mosque for weekly prayers on Friday, the Muslim holy day, said Abdullah Asrat, spokesman for the governor of Paktia province.
The bomber slipped undetected through a side door, he said.
Syed Sufi Gardezi, the most senior Shiite cleric in the city of Gardez, put the death toll at 30. He described a scene of panic and distress outside the Imam-e-Zaman mosque as news of the explosion spread and relatives gathered.
Gardezi said the wounded were screaming for help and body parts of the dead were scattered throughout the single story mosque. The dead were all men and boys, he said.
Dr. Mohammad Wali Roshan, a physician at a local hospital, said some of the relatives, armed with sticks and guns, were furious at the lack of security and began beating even medical personnel who arrived to help the wounded.
“They were shouting that there was no security and screaming for their loved ones,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan has targeted Shiite worshippers in the past. The group has also warned Afghanistan’s minority Shiites that their houses of worship would be targeted.
The Shiite cleric, Gardezi, blamed the Islamic State affiliate. He said that in eastern Paktia province, where Gardez is located, the Taliban have a strong presence and have never attacked Shiites in the past and have never threatened them.
But the Islamic State has vowed to rid Afghanistan of Shiites, he said. The Islamic State is made up of radical Sunni Muslims.