KABUL -- Suicide bombers struck a crowded Shia mosque in Kabul late Thursday (June 15) in the latest in a series of militant attacks to rattle the Afghan capital during the holy month of Ramadan.
The assault, claimed by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), killed four people and wounded eight others when the bombers' explosives detonated in the kitchen of al-Zahra mosque after police prevented them from entering the prayer hall packed with worshippers.
"One police officer and three civilians were killed, while four civilians and four police were injured," Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish told Salaam Times.
"The police bravely stopped the suicide attackers from entering inside the mosque, where they could have killed many more people who came to pray," he said.
The attack occurred as the mosque was preparing for the 21st of Ramadan, a night that holds special significance for Shia Muslims.
ISIS, which considers Shia Muslims apostates, claimed responsibility via its propaganda agency, Amaq.
Afghanistan has witnessed a wave of attacks on Shias in recent months claimed by ISIS.
Sectarian discord now a threat
The rise of ISIS has raised the spectre of sectarian discord in Afghanistan, something that the Sunni-majority country largely has been spared despite decades of war.
Afghan MP Mohammad Arif Rahmani, of Ghazni Province, condemned the bombing, saying attacks on places of worship are especially abhorrent.
"Any Islamic group or organisations that are familiar with the principles of Islam do not kill innocent worshippers during prayer inside a mosque," he told Salaam Times. "The people behind this attack are trying to stir up religious conflicts in Afghanistan."
"Terrorists, by targeting mosques and political gatherings, are trying to fan the flames of ethnic and political tensions," said a statement released by the Afghan presidential palace.
"This behaviour shows that terrorism does not have any borders, ethnicity, religion or language and that by targeting holy sites and the general public, [terrorists are] trying to create an atmosphere of fear," continued the statement.
The statement also praised the heroism and sacrifice of the security forces who prevented a bigger catastrophe from taking place.
"We are proud to have such heroic police who stopped the terrorists who aimed to kill hundreds of worshippers inside the mosque," said Mohammad Reza, an eyewitness to the attack.
"ISIS claims it's Muslim [...] but its actions are not in accordance with Islamic law," he told Salaam Times.
[Najibullah from Kabul contributed to this report.]