‘Isis will be looking for targets’: guns and fear mark Afghan Ashura

Shias in Kabul prepared for annual commemorations by scrambling to arm themselves

Two months ago, Mohammed Murtaza Turkmeni gathered up his savings and bought his first Kalashnikov. He was born, educated and started a family against the backdrop of Afghanistan’s civil war, but until now the 27-year-old telecoms engineer had never fought or wanted to fight.

This year, he didn’t feel he had a choice. He is one of hundreds of men from Kabul’s Shia population who have taken up arms to protect themselves and their community during Ashura, a ceremony that has been a frequent target for sectarian attacks from Pakistan to Iraq.

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