KABUL -- Two militant attacks against peaceful Shia Muslims commemorating Ashura sparked widespread condemnation among the Afghan people and leaders, who pledged to stay united against their common enemy.
At least 34 civilians and one police officer were killed and more than 80 people were wounded in attacks October 11-12, according to news reports.
In the first attack, a militant wearing a suicide vest and dressed in a police uniform opened fire on Muslims gathered to mourn the death of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), at the Sakhi Shrine in the Kart-e-Sakhi area near Kabul University.
The attacker killed at least 19 people, including one police officer, according to officials.
Security forces at the scene evacuated the shrine as the attack unfolded, said Kabul police chief Gen. Abdul Rahman Rahimi, adding that at least 50 people were wounded.
Special police forces found and killed the sole attacker, he said.
The "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attack.
Samya Muhammadi, a provincial council member from Daikundi Province, was reportedly among those killed in the attack, Rahimi said.
The following day in Balkh District of Balkh Province, at least 15 people were killed and more than 30 wounded in a blast outside a mosque, TOLO News reported.
Munir Ahmad Farhad, spokesperson for the Balkh governor, said the blast was the result of a remotely detonated improvised explosive device.
Most of the wounded were children, some who remain in critical condition, local health officials said according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
No group has claimed responsibility for the Balkh blast.
There were other attempted attacks against Shia shrines during the same period, Rahimi told Salaam Times, but they were controlled by the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces.
Calls for national unity
The attacks angered the Afghan people and National Unity Government leaders who strongly condemned the militants' attempt to ignite ethnic and religious tension among peaceful worshippers.
The Afghan Presidential Palace immediately condemned the attacks, calling them un-Islamic and against the culture of Afghans.
President Ashraf Ghani said the attacks were inhumane act and a war crime and "in clear enmity of the unity of adherents of religious groups of Islam".
Ghani expressed his deep condolences to the families of the victims and pledged that the government would provide full security during Ashura ceremonies.
The president also called on both Sunni and Shia scholars to recognise conspiracies by the enemies of Afghanistan and, with unity and solidarity, stand firmly against them.
Attack against humanity, Islam
A slew of other officials were quick to offer condolences and condemn the attacks.
"I strongly condemn the terrorist attack that targeted our innocent people mourning Ashura earlier this evening in Kabul," Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said via Twitter on Tuesday night.
"Attacks on innocent Afghans are inhuman and un-Islamic," Chairman of Afghanistan's Senate Fazal Hadi Muslimyar told Salaam Times.
Afghan National Security Adviser Muhammad Hanif Atmar also called on Sunni and Shia religious scholars to recognise the enemies of the unity of Afghanistan.
"We request ... the Muslim people of Afghanistan to recognise the enemies of our unity, empathy and stand firm against them," he said.
"The brutal attack on Ashura mourners at the Kart-e-Sakhi Shrine is an unforgivable crime carried out by terrorists," he said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi called the attacks "horrific and brutal" and a "crime against humanity".
'We are one nation, always will be'
Four women and two children were among those killed at the shrine, according to the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
"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," UNAMA said in a statement.
"It was an attack against humanity and Islam," Kabul University student Mahboob Shah Mahboob told Salaam Times. "We are standing with each other, we are with our Shia brothers and everyone knows the enemies of our country."
"We are one nation and always will be," he said, adding that there is no difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims. "They love each other," he said.
"The Afghan people believe in their national security forces and that they will bring peace and stability to the country," he said.