Nearly 50 die as suicide bomber targets Islamic gathering in Kabul: Official

The Afghan president called the act ‘unforgivable’ as the Taliban distanced themselves from the attack. (Reuters)
Updated 20 November 2018
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Nearly 50 die as suicide bomber targets Islamic gathering in Kabul: Official

  • The suicide bomber was able to sneak into a wedding hall in Kabul where hundreds of religious scholars and clerics had gathered
  • No one immediately claimed the attack, but both the Taliban and a local Daesh affiliate have targeted religious scholars before

KABUL: Some 50 Islamic religious figures were killed on Tuesday in the Afghan capital in a suicide attack at a religious function, summoned for marking the birth of Islam’s prophet Mohammad (PBUH), officials said.

The interior ministry spokesman, Najib Danesh, told Arab News that nearly 70 other participants were wounded in the incident which happed inside the hall of a large hotel where the function was going on after evening’s prayers.

“It was summoned by the Ulema council and scholars from many parts of the country had gathered in it to recite Koran and mark Milad Sharif,” he said.

President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack, calling it as unforgivable act. He ordered Wedneday as national mourning day when Afghanistan’s flag will be at half mast.

Over 20 of the scores wounded in the attack were in critical condition, public health ministry officials said.

The Taliban, the main insurgent group, which relies on suicide attacks against government and foreign military and civilian targets, distanced themselves from the attack and condemned it as a crime. 

The function of was held by Sunni sect of Islam’s followers, residents said.

Sirens of ambulances could be heard in several parts of the city. Images on social media showed part of the badly damaged hall of the hotel with body parts strewn in various directions.

No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. But affiliates of the Islamic State, have repeatedly targeted mosques and worshipping sites of Shiites in recent years in Afghanistan.

The network Shiites as deviants and Tuesday’s attack is the first of its kind against a Sunni religious gathering in Afghanistan.

Hundreds of people had participated in the gathering and there were fears of rise of casualties.


US arrests religious leaders, activists at border protest

A man holds his hands in the air in front of a line of Border Patrol agents during a protest Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, in San Diego. (AP)
Updated 2 min 39 sec ago
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US arrests religious leaders, activists at border protest

  • US immigration officials say these claims, most of which are accepted, exploit a legal loophole allowing migrants to enter the United States while they await a court hearing on their asylum case

SAN DIEGO : Kneeling in front of riot police, 32 religious leaders and activists were arrested at the US border fence in San Diego on Monday during a protest to support the Central American migrant caravan.
More than 400 demonstrators, many leaders of churches, mosques, synagogues and indigenous communities, sought a halt to detention and deportation of migrants and for the United States to welcome the caravan that arrived in Tijuana, Mexico in November.
Singing and praying, religious leaders moved forward in lines of four to six, some wearing T-shirts reading, “Love Knows No Borders.” They were handcuffed and led away by federal agents upon entering a restricted area in front of the fence.
“As a Quaker who believes in our shared humanity...We’re calling on the US to respect the rights of migrants,” said Joyce Ajlouny, general secretary of the American Friends Service Committee, which has run a week of actions to back migrants.
US Border Patrol spokesman Theron Francisco said 31 people were arrested by Federal Protective Services for trespassing and one was arrested by Border Patrol for assaulting an agent.
The arrests marked the second confrontation with US authorities since the caravan reached Tijuana. US Border Patrol agents fired tear gas at migrants on Nov. 25 after they said they had stones thrown at them.
Thousands of migrants are living in crowded shelters and encampments in Tijuana after traveling from Central America to escape poverty and violence. They may have to wait weeks or months to claim asylum at the US border.
Data released on Monday by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) showed asylum claims at the US-Mexico border rose 67 percent in the 2018 fiscal year from a year earlier.
US immigration officials say these claims, most of which are accepted, exploit a legal loophole allowing migrants to enter the United States while they await a court hearing on their asylum case.
“As the majority of these claims will not be successful when they are adjudicated by an immigration court, we need Congress to act to address these vulnerabilities,” CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said in a statement.
Protest leaders said President Donald Trump had portrayed the caravan as a security threat to advance his “anti-immigrant” agenda and further restrict migrants’ ability to seek asylum.
A US judge in November blocked Trump’s proclamation to bar migrants who cross the US-Mexico border illegally from seeking asylum.