Afghanistan Civilians Armed To Protect Mosques

Afghanistan Civilians Armed To Protect Mosques During Ashoura.




Authorities in Afghanistan have tightened security in Kabul in advance of Ashoura on Sunday, the holiest day in the Shia Muslim calendar, fearing attacks on worshippers.

The Afghan capital witnessed increased security, with extra police checkpoints set up in parts of the city where Ashoura processions traditionally take place.

But Kabul residents have raised concerns at the government's security plan, which includes arming hundreds of civilians to help protect mosques and religious processions that have come under attack recently.

Last week, the government provided basic defence and weapons training to at least 500 volunteer guards to protect nearly 400 Shia mosques in Kabul.

Afghanistan, a majority SunniMuslim country, has seen a series of attacks on the Shia community over recent years claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), raising fears of sectarian violence.

Muharram, which began on September 20, marks the start of the Islamic new year. Shia Muslims observe Muharram as a period of mourning for the seventh century killing of Prophet Muhammad's grandson.

The selection of guards was made by local community leaders and in cooperation with mosque committees, followed by the distribution of "light weapons", General Aman said, without elaborating on which weapons were distributed.

On Thursday, three people, including two policemen, were killed and 16 others injured in a blast near the Chendawol area of Kabul's old town that has a significant Shia population.

A day later, at least five civilianswere killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up close to Hussainia mosque in the capital. As many as 19 others were wounded in the attack.

Civilians armed to protect mosques during Ashoura

People in Kabul raise concerns at arming of civilians to guard Shia places of worship during Muharram.


Authorities in Afghanistan have tightened security in Kabul in advance of Ashoura on Sunday, the holiest day in the Shia Muslim calendar, fearing attacks on worshippers.

The Afghan capital witnessed increased security, with extra police checkpoints set up in parts of the city where Ashoura processions traditionally take place.

But Kabul residents have raised concerns at the government's security plan, which includes arming hundreds of civilians to help protect mosques and religious processions that have come under attack recently.

Last week, the government provided basic defence and weapons training to at least 500 volunteer guards to protect nearly 400 Shia mosques in Kabul.

I Can Save People.

Hamayoon Amiri, an 18-year-old civilian guard, believes it is his duty to protect people from attacks by ISIL or the Taliban.

He said he does not care whether the "person is a Shia or Sunni", he simply wants to "protect the people of Afghanistan".

"It's been a week since I started performing my duty outside Al-Zahra mosque in Kabul's Dasht-e Barchi area," he said, adding that he will move to another mosque to provide security in the coming days.

"My commander trained us on how to use a gun. He fought against the Soviet invasion and I respect him a lot," Amiri said.

"The government has failed numerous times to protect us, so now it is our duty as Afghans to step up. We don't have any more options.

"I know I can save people, I am well trained," he added.
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