Prominent cleric among 21 killed in Kabul mosque bombing

Prominent cleric among 21 killed in Kabul mosque bombing
Taliban fighters and local residents gather around a mosque that has been bombed in Kabul, Afghanistan (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

A bombing at a mosque in the Afghan capital Kabul during evening prayers has killed at least 21 people, including a prominent cleric, and wounded at least 33 others, witnesses and police said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on Wednesday night, the latest to strike the country in the year since the Taliban seized power.

Several children were reported to be among the wounded.

The so-called Islamic State group’s local affiliate has stepped up attacks targeting the Taliban and civilians since the former insurgents’ takeover last August as US and Nato troops were in the final stages of their withdrawal from the country.

Mourners carry the body of a victim of a mosque bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

Last week, the extremists claimed responsibility for killing a prominent Taliban cleric at his religious centre in Kabul.

Khalid Zadran, the spokesman for Kabul’s Taliban police chief, gave the figures to the Associated Press (AP) for the bombing at the Siddiquiya mosque in the city’s Kher Khanna neighbourhood.

A witness told the AP the explosion was carried out by a suicide bomber.

The killed cleric was Mullah Amir Mohammad Kabuli, the witness said.

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

There were fears the casualty numbers could rise further.

On Thursday morning, one witness to the blast who gave his name as Qyaamuddin told the AP he believed as many as 25 people may have been killed in the blast.

“It was evening prayer time, and I was attending the prayer with others, when the explosion happened,” Qyaamuddin said.

Mourners carry the body of a victim of the bombing (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

Some Afghans go by a single name.

AP journalists could see the blue-roofed, Sunni mosque from a nearby hillside.

The Taliban parked police trucks and other vehicles at the mosque, while several men carried out one coffin for a victim of the attack.

A US-led invasion toppled the previous Taliban government, which had hosted al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, following the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Since regaining power, the former insurgents have faced a crippling economic crisis as the international community, which does not recognise the Taliban government, froze funding to the country.

On Thursday, the Taliban hosted a gathering of 3,000 tribal elders, religious scholars and others in Kandahar, their state-run 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 western Herat province as he was trying to cross the border into Iran.

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

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

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