Posted by News Express | 8 October 2021 | 830 times
An explosion went off Friday among Shia Muslim worshippers at a mosque in northern Afghanistan, killing or wounding at least 100 people, a Taliban police official said.
There was no immediate claim for the blast in Kunduz province, but Islamic State militants have a long history of attacking Afghanistan's Shia Muslim minority.
Dost Mohammad Obaida, the deputy police chief for Kunduz province, said that the "majority of them have been killed." He said the attack may have been carried out by a suicide bomber who mingled among the worshipers.
"I assure our Shia brothers that the Taliban are prepared to ensure their safety," Obaida said, adding that an investigation was underway.
If confirmed, Friday's death toll would be the highest in an attack by militants since U.S. and NATO troops left Afghanistan at the end of August and the Taliban took control of the country.
Photos and video from the scene showed rescuers carrying a body wrapped in a blanket from the mosque to an ambulance. Debris from the blast covered the floor and the mosque's lofty ceiling was charred black.
A resident of the area, Hussaindad Rezayee, said he rushed to the mosque as soon as the explosion went off.
"I was busy at home doing construction work, and when the prayers started, the explosion happened," he said. "I came to look for my relatives, the mosque was full."
Earlier Friday, the chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Shia mosque was the target and that a "large number" of worshippers were killed and wounded. He said Taliban special forces had arrived to the scene and were investigating the incident.
The Taliban leadership has been grappling with a growing threat from the local Islamic State affiliate, known as the Islamic State in Khorasan. ISIS-K militants have ramped up attacks to target their rivals, including two deadly bombings in Kabul.
ISIS-K has also targeted Afghanistan's religious minorities in attacks.
The local Islamic State affiliate claimed responsibility for the horrific Aug. 26 bombing that killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. military personnel outside the Kabul airport in the final days of the chaotic American pullout from Afghanistan.
Since the U.S. pullout, IS attacks have been mostly in eastern Afghanistan — the regional base for the IS affiliate — and in Kabul.
Ethnic Hazaras, who are mostly minority Shia Muslims, make up about six per cent of Kunduz's population of nearly one million people. The province also has a large ethnic Uzbek population that has been targeted for recruitment by the IS, which is closely aligned with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
Friday's attack, if claimed by IS, will also be worrying for Afghanistan's northern central Asian neighbours and Russia, which has been courting the Taliban for years as an ally against the creeping IS in the area. (Credit, excluding headline, courtesy of AP)
•PHOTO: Blood stains are seen in the compound outside a mosque following a bombing in Kunduz province, northern Afghanistan, on Friday. (Abdullah Sahil/The Associated Press)
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