Kabul, Afghanistan — A bomb attack on a mosque in the Afghan capital Kabul during evening prayers killed at least 21 people, including a prominent cleric, and injured at least 33 others, eyewitnesses and police said on Thursday.
There was no immediate responsibility for Wednesday night’s 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 stepped up attacks on the Taliban and civilians since the former insurgents took power last August, when US and NATO troops were in the final stages of withdrawing from the country. Last week, the extremists claimed responsibility for the assassination of a prominent Taliban cleric at his religious center in Kabul.
Khalid Zadran, spokesman for Kabul’s Taliban police chief, gave The Associated Press the figures for the Siddiquiya Mosque bombing in the city’s Kher Khanna district. An eyewitness told the AP the blast was carried out by a suicide bomber.
The cleric killed was Mullah Amir Mohammad Kabuli, the eyewitness said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid condemned the blast and promised that “the perpetrators of such crimes will soon be brought to justice and punished.”
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There were fears that the death toll could continue to rise. On Thursday morning, a witness to the blast who gave his name said as Qyaamuddin told the AP he believes up to 25 people were killed in the blast.
“It was evening prayer time and I was attending prayer with others when the blast happened,” Qyaamuddin said. Some Afghans go by a single name.
AP journalists were able to see the blue-roofed Sunni mosque from a nearby hilltop. The Taliban parked police trucks and other vehicles in front of the mosque while several men carried a coffin for a victim of the attack.
Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, a US-led invasion toppled the previous Taliban government that had hosted al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.
Since regaining 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. On Thursday, the Taliban held a gathering of 3,000 tribal elders, religious scholars and others in Kandahar, their state-run Bakhtar News Agency reported. It wasn’t immediately clear what topics they wanted to discuss.
Separately, the Taliban confirmed on Wednesday that they had captured and killed Mehdi Mujahid in western Herat province as he attempted to cross the border with Iran.
Mujahid was a former Taliban commander in Balkhab district of northern Sar-e-Pul province and the only member of the Hazara Shia minority in the Taliban ranks.
Mujahid turned against the Taliban last year after rejecting decisions by Taliban leaders in Kabul.
Faiez reported from Islamabad.
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https://6abc.com/afghanistan-mosque-explosion-taliban-war/12137582/ Afghanistan mosque bombing in Kabul kills at least 21, Taliban police say