Afghan blast: Pakistan militants blamed
Kabul - Afghans were on Wednesday burying 59 people killed in unprecedented bombings against Shi’ite Muslims as officials blamed Pakistani militants, accusing them of trying to whip up Iraq-style sectarian violence.
Investigators are poring over who was behind the co-ordinated attacks in the Afghan capital Kabul and northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif that the Taliban, the main faction leading a 10-year insurgency, have denied carrying out.
An Afghan official claimed on Wednesday that the bomber who attacked a shrine in Kabul was a Pakistani, affiliated to Pakistan's extremist Lashkar-i-Jhangvi group, which has been blamed for killing thousands of Pakistani Shi’ites.
The faction, which is linked to al-Qaeda has not previously claimed responsibility for any attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Sectarian violence fears
Tuesday's blast on the holiest day in the Shiite calendar marked the first major attack on a key religious day in Afghanistan.
The twin blasts have prompted fears of a slide into sectarian violence in Afghanistan, which until now has avoided the kind of attacks that have pitched Shi’ite against Sunni Muslims in Iraq and Pakistan.
The victims were buried on Wednesday in emotional scenes. Several hundred people marched through west Kabul with two of the bodies on the way to a burial ground, an AFP photographer said.
The US embassy confirmed that an American citizen was among the 55 people killed in the Kabul attack but gave no further details.
President Hamid Karzai scrapped a planned trip to Britain, flying back to Afghanistan for an emergency meeting with security chiefs after attending Monday's Bonn conference on his country's future.
He was later due to meet survivors of the attack in hospital.
Lutfullah Mashal, a spokesperson for Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security intelligence agency, confirmed that an investigation into the tragedy was now under way.
Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesperson for the Afghan interior ministry, said the attack was the work of "the Taliban and their associates", adding no-one else carried out such suicide attacks in Afghanistan.
Pakistanis blamed for Afghan violence
An Afghan security official speaking on condition of anonymity said the bomber was from the Kurram agency in Pakistan's border region and was connected to Sepah-i-Sahaba, a Lashkar-i-Jhangvi offshoot.
Many Afghans traditionally blame Pakistanis for fuelling much of the violence in their country.
A Western security official speaking anonymously also suggested Pakistani involvement though stressed it was not clear whether this was "institutional".
There are reported links between Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Pakistani intelligence.
"We're particularly looking at TTP [Tehreek-i-Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban] although at the moment we don't have any proof," he said. The source added he believed the attack "aimed to weaken Afghan society".
A Pakistani security official speaking anonymously said Lashkar-i-Jhangvi was closely associated with the Pakistani Taliban.
But he added: "This group is on the run and doesn't have the capacity to carry out attacks inside Afghanistan, particularly in Kabul."
Pakistani security analyst Hasan Askari emphasised that there was no clear evidence at this stage of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi involvement.
"Lashkar people have an ideological affinity with other militant groups operating in Afghanistan including Taliban and they support each other but they [Lashkar] have to establish that their strength is increasing," he said.