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Blast kills 14 Shiites in northern Afghanistan

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Mazar-i-Sharif (Afghanistan) (AFP)

At least 14 Shiites were killed Wednesday in a bombing at a mosque in northern Afghanistan, the second deadly attack on the minority in as many days during the major festival of Ashura.

"The explosion happened at the gate of the Shiite mosque in the centre of Balkh district (in Balkh province)," said provincial governor's spokesman Munir Ahmad Farhad, adding that 14 people were killed and 28 injured.

His account was confirmed by the provincial deputy police chief.

The blast came as the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul Tuesday that also targeted Shiites, killing up to 18 people and wounding dozens.

Witnesses said gunmen entered the Karte Sakhi shrine near Kabul University late Tuesday, firing indiscriminately on men, women and children as they tried to flee.

The UN called the attack an "atrocity" and put the toll at 18, though the interior ministry later said it was 16.

The threat of attacks on Shiites was considered particularly serious during Ashura, and many foreign embassies in Kabul had restricted staff movements until the end of the week.

Ashura, marked on Wednesday, commemorates the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, who was assassinated in the year 680 and whose tragic end laid the foundation for the faith practised by the Shiite community.

In 2011 about 80 people were killed and more than 100 wounded when a suicide bomber struck a gathering of Shiites during Ashura in the heart of Kabul.

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