At least 10 killed as bomb rips through mosque in Afghan capital
A bomb blast in the Afghan capital ripped through a Sunni mosque and killed at least 10 worshippers on Friday, interior ministry officials said, the latest in a wave of attacks that have rocked the country during the fasting month of Ramadan.
Dozens of civilians have been killed in the primarily sectarian attacks — some claimed by the Islamic State group — targeting members of the Shiite and Sufi Muslim communities.
Grisly images of Friday’s blast posted on social media showed survivors running out of the mosque, with some carrying victims including children. Patches of blood could be seen on the floor of the mosque compound.
“Many worshippers were at the Khalifa Sahib mosque when the blast went off,” a survivor who gave his name as Ahmad told AFP.
“Many victims were thrown off their feet.”
The target of the blast appeared to be members of the minority Sufi community who were performing rituals after completing Friday prayers, an official said.
Bloodied casualties were ferried in ambulances and vehicles to a hospital in central Kabul but Taliban fighters barred journalists from accessing the facility.
Groups of women were crying outside the hospital and near the mosque in an attempt to find their loved ones, an AFP correspondent reported.
“Around 300 to 400 people were performing rituals when the blast occurred,” said a resident from the area who only gave the name Faraidun.
“I helped carry in vehicles 10 to 15 injured and three who were killed. Many of the injured and martyred are still being evacuated.”
Interior ministry spokesman Abdul Nafi Takor said at least 10 people were killed, while Kabul police said another 30 were injured.
“All of them had come to perform rituals when the blast occurred,” Takor told AFP.
The deputy spokesman of the ministry Bismillah Habib said the explosives had been placed inside the mosque.
– ‘Painful blow’ –
Friday’s attack came hours after Afghanistan’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada praised the country’s security apparatus in a message ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.
While he made no mention of the recent spate of bombings, he said Afghanistan had been able to build “a strong Islamic and national army,” as well as “a strong intelligence organisation”.
The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov, condemned the blast.
“Today’s blast … is yet another painful blow to the people of Afghanistan who continue to be exposed to unremitting insecurity and violence,” he said in a statement.
Afghan government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted that the perpetrators of the blast will be punished.
Later on Friday, municipal workers wearing orange jumpsuits were deployed to clean the site, while gun-touting Taliban fighters cordoned off the area.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.
Friday’s blast comes a day after two bombs on separate minibuses killed at least nine people in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, targeting Shiite passengers heading home to break their Ramadan fast.
A bomb at a Shiite mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif a week earlier killed at least 12 worshippers and wounded scores more.
The regional branch of IS in Sunni-majority Afghanistan has repeatedly targeted Shiites and minorities such as Sufis, who follow a mystical branch of Islam.
IS is a Sunni Islamist group, like the Taliban, but the two are bitter rivals.
The biggest ideological difference is that the Taliban pursued an Afghanistan free of foreign forces, whereas IS wants an Islamic caliphate stretching from Turkey to Pakistan and beyond.
Taliban officials insist their forces have defeated IS, but analysts say the jihadist group remains a key security challenge.