Iran’s foreign ministry harshly condemned a terror attack on a Shiite mosque in Afghanistan on Friday that killed at least 35 people, blaming Sunni extremists.
The embassy of Iran, Afghanistan's neighbor and the region's largest Shi'ite power, condemned the attack. "We hope Taliban leaders take decisive action against these wicked terrorist incidents," it said in a tweet.
A large explosion tore through the mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, the second week in a row that militants bombed Friday prayers and killed dozens of worshippers from the minority sect.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday's attack in Kandahar, but Islamic State claimed the similar bombing that killed scores of Shi'ites in the northern city of Kunduz a week earlier.
The attacks have caused shock and terror among members of Afghanistan's Shi'ite minority and undermine the ruling Taliban movement's claim to have restored security since taking control of the country in August.
Kamal Kharazi, a top foreign policy advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that Iran expects the Taliban to respect Iran’s interests, and the protection of Shiites and Persian speakers is at the top of the list.
The foreign ministry Friday warned about plots “by enemies of Islam” in Afghanistan and called for unity among Sunnis and Shiites.
Haji Sarwar Hazara, a local construction contractor who worships at the mosque and arrived soon after the blast, said there had been at least three attackers. One attacked security guards at the entrance, allowing two suicide bombers to get into the mosque in the confusion.
"When I arrived at the mosque, I saw injured, dead bodies, and people who had fallen on top of each other," he said, adding that he had seen the bodies of two attackers.
"I do not know who did this work, it is the enemy of Islam. But they cannot bring differences among Muslims," he said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said security forces had been ordered to capture the perpetrators and bring them to justice under Islamic law.
Sunni Muslim fighters of Islamic State have repeatedly targeted Shi'ites in the past with large-scale attacks intended to kill civilians, including one that killed scores of schoolgirls in a Shi'ite district of Kabul in May last year.
The Taliban are also strict Sunni Muslims but consider Islamic State their enemy and have pledged to protect all ethnic and sectarian groups since sweeping into power in August as U.S. forces withdrew.
The UN mission in Afghanistan said those responsible should be held to account.
Taliban special forces arrived to secure the site and an appeal went out to residents to donate blood for the wounded.
The blast, coming so soon after the Kunduz attack, underlined uncertainty over security in Afghanistan as the Taliban grapple with an escalating economic and humanitarian crisis that threatens millions with hunger.
With reporting by Reuters