Blast hits Kuwait Shia mosque, killing at least 26
At least 26 people have been killed and over 200 wounded after an explosion tore through a Shia mosque in the Kuwaiti capital, during Friday's midday prayers.
The blast hit the al-Imam al-Sadiq mosque in a busy area of Kuwait City's al-Sawabir district.
Paramedic Abdelrahman al-Yusef said most of the victims were men or boys who were at the mosque when the bombing took place, adding that medics have treated at least 179 people.
Basel al-Fadli from the Kuwait Watch Organisation said several people are still missing.
A number of hospitals in the oil-rich emirate declared states of emergency to deal with the wounded, while the central blood bank appealed for blood donations.
The AFP news agency reported that the blast was caused by a suicide bomber, adding that the Islamic State (IS) group had claimed responsiblity.
A post on a Twitter account known to belong to the group said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt.
The IS-affiliated group in Saudi Arabia, calling itself Najd Province, said militant Abu Suleiman al-Muwahhid carried out the attack on the mosque, which it claimed was spreading Shia teachings among Sunni Muslims. IS, a radical Sunni Muslim group, considers Shias to be heretics.
Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, immediately visited the site, and footage on state-run Kuwait Television showed him visibly moved by the scenes of carnage.
Television and social media sites showed footage of massive destruction caused by the blast, and people posted online horrific pictures of the dead and wounded.
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The Kuwaiti cabinet went into an emergency meeting to discuss the incident, as the interior ministry raised the level of alert and mobilised all security forces, adding that it had launched a full investigation into the incident.
Three weeks ago, the ministry had raised the level of security around mosques following the bombings in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
Friday midday prayers are typically the most crowded of the week, and attendance increases during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which started last week.
The attack is the first such bombing targeting Kuwaiti Shias, who make up around one-third of the country's native population of 1.3 million people.
The bombing was strongly condemned by political groups, organisations and lawmakers. The mainstream Sunni group, the Islamic Constitutional Movement condemned what it called "the low criminal attack targeting the mosque."
Kuwait's leading Sunni cleric, Sheikh Ajeel al-Nashmi, said on Twitter that the bombing is a "criminal act aimed at sowing seeds of discord, and undoubtedly Shias and Sunnis will foil the terrorists' plot."
Independent MP Sultan al-Shemmari called on the government to "hit with an iron fist" against the "terrorists."
In the past few weeks, Kuwaiti courts have tried a number of people on charges of being IS members and sentenced at least one of them to several years in jail.