17 dead in militant attack in Kabul shrine

Afghani Shi'ite Muslim devotees attend a mourning procession commemorating Ashura at the Blue Mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif

Meanwhile in the capital, Kabul, the death toll from a Tuesday night attack on a Shiite shrine rose to 17 people, including a policeman.

Ashura, which will be observed on Wednesday, commemorates the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

Eyewitnesses also reported an explosion.

More than 26 others were injured after a gunman dressed as a police officer stormed the shrine and used an automatic rifle and grenade to carry out the attack.

Some 36 people were wounded and at least one attacker killed, interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said, adding that the assault was over.

Military police arrived at the scene quickly and shot dead the attacker.

The attack in Kabul happened in one of the city's largest shrines.

The interior ministry had previously said two attackers had been killed and at least one more assailant remained on the loose.

The UN released a statement saying: "This attack deliberately targeting a large group of civilians exercising their right to freely manifest their religion in worship, observance and practice is an atrocity". Sixteen of the wounded were women, Majroh said.

Meanwhile Pakistani Foreign Office condemned the attack and said that Pakistan is against all the terrorism and vowed to eliminate all militant elements.

On Wednesday grieving worshippers in Kabul described trying to shelter their children against a hail of gunfire during Tuesday's attacks.

The attack in the Afghan capital is only the latest development in the country's unravelling security situation as the resurgent Taliban continued to pressure Afghan forces, with hundreds of commandos sent to reinforce the provincial capital Lashkar Gah in the south.

Police in Kabul warned Shiites against mass gatherings as attacks had been anticipated.

"The second terrorist attack in Kabul tonight was on Char Yar Mosque in Karte Char, Special forces went there to gun down the attackers", said Sediqqi.

Islamic State had earlier targeted members of Kabul's Shi'ite community in a suicide bombing in July that killed more than 80 people and wounded 130.

Afghanistan has largely avoided widespread sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims, but Afghanistan's Shi'ite minority has complained of discrimination and has faced increased threats.

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