Police: Death toll in Afghan capital mosque attack now stands at 21

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A bombing at a mosque in the Afghan capital of Kabul during evening prayers killed at least 21 people, including a prominent cleric, and wounded at least 33 others, eyewitnesses and police said Thursday. .

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Wednesday night’s attack, the latest to hit the country in the year since the Taliban took power. Several children were reported to be among the injured.

The local affiliate of the Islamic State group has stepped up attacks against the Taliban and civilians since the former insurgents seized power last August, when US and NATO troops were in the final stages of their withdrawal from the country. Last week, extremists claimed responsibility for killing a prominent Taliban cleric at his religious center in Kabul.

Khalid Zadran, the spokesman for Kabul’s Taliban police chief, provided The Associated Press with figures from the bombing of the Siddiquiya mosque in the city’s Kher Khanna neighborhood. A witness told the AP that the explosion was the work of a suicide bomber.

The cleric killed was Mullah Amir Mohammad Kabuli, said the witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid condemned the explosion and promised that “the perpetrators of such crimes will soon be brought to justice and punished.”

It was feared that the number of victims could rise further. On Thursday morning, a witness to the blast who identified himself as Qyaamuddin told the AP that he believed as many as 25 people may have been killed in the blast.

“It was evening prayer time and I was attending prayer with others when the explosion happened,” Qyaamuddin said. Some Afghans have only one name.

AP reporters were able to see the blue-roofed Sunni mosque from a nearby hill. The Taliban parked police trucks and other vehicles at the mosque, while several men carried out a coffin for a victim of the attack.

A US-led invasion toppled the previous Taliban government, which had harbored al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Since regaining power, the former insurgents have faced a crippling economic crisis as the international community, which does not recognize the Taliban government, has frozen funding for the country. On Thursday, the Taliban organized a gathering of 3,000 tribal elders, religious scholars and others in Kandahar, its state Bakhtar news agency reported. It was not immediately clear what topics they planned to discuss.

Separately, the Taliban confirmed on Wednesday that they had captured and killed Mehdi Mujahid in the western province of Herat as he tried to cross the border into Iran.

Mujahid was a former Taliban commander in Balkhab district in the northern province of Sar-e-Pul, and the only member of the minority Shiite Hazara community among Taliban ranks.

Mujahid had turned against the Taliban over the past year after opposing decisions made by Taliban leaders in Kabul.


Faiez reported from Islamabad.


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