Karzai to confront Pakistan over Kabul attack

Afghan President Hamid Karzai reacts during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Dec. 6, 2011.
AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghanistan's president vowed Wednesday to confront the government in Islamabad over a devastating suicide bombing against a Shiite shrine in Kabul that he said originated on Pakistani soil.

At least 56 people were killed in Tuesday's bombing at a shrine where hundreds had gathered to mark the Shiite holy day of Ashoura. One American citizen was among the dead. A second bomb hit a Shiite vehicle procession in a northern city at roughly the same time, killing four people.

A man claiming to be from Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami, a Pakistan-based splinter group of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi that has carried out attacks against Shiite Muslims in Pakistan, has called various media outlets to claim responsibility for the Kabul bombing.

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The validity of the claim could not be determined, but CBS News sources in Pakistan also pointed to the group on Tuesday immediately after the attack.

"The circumstantial evidence of today's attack points very, very strongly towards LJ's involvement," a Pakistani security official tells Bokhari.

A Western diplomat in Islamabad concurred with the official's assessment, saying "there is enough evidence to tell us of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi's involvement. I can't get in to the specifics of intelligence information, but there were warnings floating around recently of a big attack in the pipeline, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was a key suspect."

President Hamid Karzai said he believed this claim, although he did not elaborate.

"We are investigating this issue and we are going to talk to the Pakistan government about it," Karzai told reporters as he visited a hospital where scores of people wounded in the attack were being treated. He said the attack was not just an act of hate against Muslims, but against mankind.

"Afghanistan cannot ignore the blood of all the victims of this incident, especially the children," he added.

Pakistani military spokesman Gen. Athar Abbas dismissed any suggestions that the violent sectarian group has links to the country's intelligence agencies.

"Lashkar-e-Janghvi has declared war on the security forces in Pakistan," he told The Associated Press in an interview. He said the group has been implicated in some of the worst attacks on Pakistani security forces.

"They are being hunted down," he stressed.

The bombing at the shrine in Kabul was the first major sectarian attack in Afghanistan in recent memory. It has raised worries that an already violence-wracked country might be on the verge of dipping into a divisive religious conflict as well.

Afghanistan's Shiite community makes up about 20 percent of the nation's 30 million population. Hard-line Sunnis consider Shiites nonbelievers because their customs and traditions differ from the majority sect.

As families gathered for funerals across Kabul on Wednesday, violence in the insurgent-heavy south continued with a roadside bomb that killed 19 people traveling in a minibus in Helmand province.