KABUL: Gunmen targeted Shiite pilgrims in Kabul late Tuesday, killing at least 14, wounded 36 people as they gathered to celebrate Ashura, one of the most important festivals on the Shiite calendar, an interior ministry spokesman said.

Thirteen of the dead were civilians and one a police officer, Sediq Sediqqi said, adding that the assault was over.

Earlier he had said two attackers were killed and at least one more assailant remained on the loose. Special forces had briefly entered the Karte Sakhi shrine near Kabul University to see if any more gunmen were left alive.

Four civilians and one police officer were killed in the attack, with 24 including three police injured, a senior security official said.

“A number of attackers have targeted people in Karte Sakhi shrine,” said Kabul Police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi.

“Police have evacuated dozens of people from the shrine. A number of civilians and police have been injured.”

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the assault.

The threat of attack targeting Shiites was considered particularly serious during Ashura, and many foreign embassies had restricted their staff´s movements until the end of the week in Kabul.

Ashura, which will be celebrated Wednesday, commemorates the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, who was assassinated in 680 and whose tragic end laid the foundation for the faith.

For Shiites around the world, Ashura is a symbol of the struggle against oppression.

The last attack on the Afghan Shiite minority, on July 23 in Kabul, killed 84 people and left 130 injured. It was claimed by the Islamic State organisation.

Tuesday´s attack came as Afghanistan deployed hundreds of commandos backed by NATO air strikes in Lashkar Gah to drive Taliban insurgents from the southern city after their latest attempt to seize the capital of Helmand province.