x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Afghan president said last week's sectarian attacks killed at least 80

Hamid Karzai says the death toll from Tuesday's attacks on three Shiite sites is more than previously reported.

KABUL // Some 80 people died in bomb attacks on Shiite Muslim ceremonies in Afghanistan, far higher than the previously reported number, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, said.

"The numbers I got this morning, it is 80 people who died," he said, speaking at a government event in Kabul.

It was not clear whether Mr Karzai was referring only to the bombing at a shrine in Kabul, which police said on Tuesday had killed 55, or including two other incidents in different cities.

The original toll given for all three incidents — in Kabul, northern Mazar-i-Sharif, and southern Kandahar — was 59 people.

Last Tuesday's attacks was one of the deadliest days for civilians since the US-led overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001.

Over 80 people were killed in a suicide attack in southern Kandahar province in early 2008, the same year that 58 people died in a suicide car bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul.

But the attacks last week are the first tainted with sectarianism, and have raised fears among some that more violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims is to come.

Such attacks are common in Pakistan and Iraq, but despite Afghanistan's decades of war and ethnic tensions, the country has not suffered large-scale attacks on minority Shiites since the fall of the Taliban.

Mr Karzai said after the attacks that Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi had claimed responsibility, and that he would raise the matter with the Pakistan government.