A blast that ripped through a mosque packed with worshippers in the Afghan capital killed at least 21 people and wounded more than two dozen others, police said Thursday.
The number of bombings across Afghanistan has declined since the Taliban returned to power last year, but several attacks — some targeting minority communities — have rocked the country in recent months, including those claimed by the jihadist Islamic State (IS) group.
No group has claimed responsibility for Wednesday evening’s blast at Kabul’s Sediqia Mosque, which has an adjoining madrasa.
“He was my cousin, may God forgive him,” said one local resident who gave his name as Masiullah, referring to a relative who died in the explosion.
“One year had passed from his marriage, he was 27 years old… he was a good person.”
Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zadran said 21 people were killed and 33 others wounded.
Italian non-governmental organisation Emergency, which operates a hospital in Kabul, said it had received 35 patients, including three who died.
“Most of the injuries were caused by shrapnel and burns. Our surgeons were operating throughout the night. There were nine children among the victims that we received,” country director Stefano Sozza said in a statement on Thursday.
Local hospitals contacted by AFP said they were not permitted to provide details of casualties they had treated.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan on Thursday said security was “deteriorating” in the country.
“We deplore yesterday’s attack in a Kabul mosque, the latest in a disturbing series of bombings which have killed & injured more than 250 people in recent weeks, the highest monthly number of civilian casualties over the last year,” said a statement released on Twitter.
Wednesday’s explosion comes nearly a week after a suicide bomber killed top Taliban cleric Rahimullah Haqqani, along with his brother, at his madrasa in Kabul.
Haqqani was known for angry speeches against IS, which later claimed the attack.
The jihadist group has primarily targeted minority communities such as Shiites, Sufis and Sikhs.
While IS is a Sunni Islamist group like the Taliban, the two are bitter rivals and greatly diverge on ideological grounds.
Secretive supreme leader
The Taliban’s secretive supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada condemned the attack on Thursday, according to a statement released by the group.
He had appeared at a men-only gathering of more than 2,500 Taliban officials, Muslim clerics and elders in the southern city of Kandahar — its de facto power base.
The mass meeting was held to mark the first anniversary of the movement’s return to power — a turbulent year that saw women’s rights crushed and a humanitarian crisis worsen.
Afghanistan is in economic crisis, with its overseas assets frozen by Washington and aid curtailed to keep funds out of the Taliban’s hands.
Tensions have emerged within the Taliban in recent months over the need for international recognition, with no country yet establishing formal ties with the government.
Akhundzada said the Taliban were “ready to fight the United States once again” for the right to implement its harsh interpretation of sharia law, according to the group’s statement, in which he also stressed the need for unity.
The reopening of girls’ secondary schools in the country has been a major sticking point.