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A suicide attack killed dozens of Shi'ite Muslims at a crowded Kabul shrine on Tuesday, and four others died in a smaller blast in a key northern city, in the worst sectarian violence Afghanistan has seen since the fall of the Taliban.
The Kabul bomb was the deadliest in the capital since 2008, and punctured any lingering sense of optimism from a conference on Monday where Western allies made firm but not specific promises to support Afghanistan after troops leave in 2014.
Bodies and blood were scattered down a street in the heart of old Kabul where a crowd of hundreds had gathered to mark the festival of Ashura, with chanting, and self-flagellation. At least 55 were killed and 160 wounded, some critically.
"This is the first time on such an important religious day in Afghanistan that terrorism of that horrible nature is taking place," Afghan President Hamid Karzai told journalists in Germany, where the conference on Afghanistan's future was held.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks in Kabul and northern Mazar-i-Sharif. The Taliban strongly condemned the bombings and blamed "invader enemies."