A suicide bombing attack believed to have been carried out by the Islamic State group on a Shiite mosque in Kuwait’s capital Friday killed at least 25 people and wounded 202 others, the country’s interior ministry announced. A post on a Twitter account belonging to the militant group formerly known as either ISIL or ISIS said the attack on the Imam Sadiq Mosque in Kuwait City had been carried out by an Islamic State affiliate called the Najd Province, the same group that claimed it carried out two recent attacks on Shiite mosques in Saudi Arabia, the Associated Press reported.
The attackers struck after Friday prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, when attendance typically increases at mosques. One witness told AP the roughly 2,000 worshippers were participating in a group prayer when a bomb exploded near the door of the mosque. The Sunni Islamic State group regards Shiites as heretics. A Twitter statement by the militant group after the attack said the bomber had targeted a “temple of apostates.”
A Kuwaiti parliament member told Reuters that worshippers were kneeling in prayer when the suicide bomber entered from the side of the mosque and blew himself up, destroying walls and the ceiling. “It was obvious from the suicide bomber’s body that he was young. He walked into the prayer hall during sujood [kneeling in prayer], he looked ... in his 20s, I saw him with my own eyes,” Khalil al-Salih told the news agency.
“The explosion was really hard. The ceiling and wall got destroyed,” al-Salih said, adding that more than 2,000 people from the Shiite Ja’afari sect were praying at the mosque at the time. Shiites make up about one-third of Kuwait’s native population of 1.3 million people.
Kuwait’s Islamic Affairs Minister Yacoub al-Sanna called the attack a “terrorist and cowardly action which threatens our nation and works at tearing apart the national unity,” AP reported. Al-Sanna added that the government would take all necessary measures to protect houses of worship in the country. “Kuwait was and will remain the oasis of security and safety to all components of the Kuwaiti society and sects,” he said.
Kuwaiti state television footage showed the country’s emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, surveying the damaged mosque after the attack, Reuters reported. Citizens were urged to stay away from the scene to allow authorities to investigate.