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Afghans take part in a burial ceremony for the victims of a suicide bombing attack that took place in a Shi'ite mosque in Gardez, Paktia province, Afghanistan August 4, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer


CAIRO (Reuters) - Islamic State on Saturday claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on a Shi'ite Muslim mosque in eastern Afghanistan that killed 39 people and wounded at least 80 others.

In a statement carried by its Amaq news agency, the group said around 150 Shi'ites and security forces members were killed or wounded in Friday's attack in the city of Gardez in Paktia province, but gave few details on how the attack was carried out.

The Paktia police chief said that two burka-clad militants carried out the attack on the mosque, where more than 100 people had gathered to pray.

Islamic State militants view Shi'ite Muslims as heretics.

The group has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on Shi'ite mosques, security installations and civilians in Afghanistan in recent weeks as pressure builds for peace talks between the Western-backed government and the Taliban.

The attack underlines the dire security situation after four decades of war and 17 years of U.S. intervention.

No reliable census information exists on the size of the Shi’ite community in Afghanistan, but estimates range around 10-15 percent, including most members of the Persian-speaking Hazara ethnic group and some Tajiks.

(Reporting by Omar Fahmy, writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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