Kabul, Afghanistan — A bomb attack on a mosque in the Afghan capital Kabul during evening prayers on Wednesday killed at least 10 people, including a prominent cleric, and injured at least 27, an eyewitness and police said.
Responsibility was not immediately claimed for the attack, the last to hit the country in the year since the Taliban took power. Several children are said to be among the injured.
The local affiliate of the Islamic State group has ramped up attacks on the Taliban and civilians since the takeover by the former insurgents last August, when US and NATO forces were in the final stages of their withdrawal from the country. Last week, IS claimed responsibility for the murder of a prominent Taliban cleric at its religious center in Kabul.
According to the eyewitness, a resident of the Kher Khanna neighborhood of the city where the Siddiquiya mosque was targeted, the explosion was carried out by a suicide bomber. The slain cleric was Mullah Amir Mohammad Kabuli, the eyewitness said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
He added that more than 30 other people had been injured. Italy’s emergency hospital in Kabul said at least 27 injured civilians, including five children, were taken there from the site of the bombing.
Khalid Zadran, the Taliban-appointed spokesman for the chief of police of Kabul, confirmed an explosion at a mosque in northern Kabul but would not result in casualties or a breakdown of the dead and injured.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also condemned the explosion and vowed that the “perpetrators of such crimes will soon be brought to justice and punished”.
It was feared that the number of victims would rise even further. On Thursday morning, a witness to the blast who gave his name, as Qyaamuddin told The Associated Press, said he believed as many as 25 people were killed in the blast.
“It was evening prayer time and I was attending prayer with others when the explosion happened,” Qyaamuddin said. Some Afghans go by a single name.
AP journalists could see the blue-roofed Sunni mosque from a nearby hill. The Taliban parked police cars and other vehicles near the mosque, while several men carried a coffin for a victim of the attack.
A US-led invasion overthrew the previous Taliban government that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had hosted in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Since returning to power, the former insurgents have faced a crippling economic crisis as the international community, which does not recognize the Taliban government, froze the country’s funding.
Separately, on Wednesday, the Taliban confirmed that they had captured and killed Mehdi Mujahid in the western province of Herat while he was trying to cross the border into Iran.
Mujahid was a former Taliban commander in Balkhab District, Northern Sar-e-Pul Province, and the only member of the Hazara Shia minority among the Taliban ranks.
Mujahid had turned against the Taliban for the past year after resisting decisions by Taliban leaders in Kabul.
Faiez reported from Islamabad.
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