A powerful explosion killed more than 50 worshippers after Friday prayers at a Kabul mosque, its leader said, amid a series of attacks on civilian targets in Afghanistan during the holy month of Ramazan.
The blast hit the Khalifa Sahib Mosque in the west of the capital in the early afternoon, said Besmullah Habib, deputy spokesperson for the interior ministry, who said the official confirmed death toll was 10. This was just as worshippers at the mosque gathered after Friday prayers for a congregation known as Zikr. Sayed Fazil Agha, the head of the mosque, said someone they believed was a suicide bomber joined them in the ceremony and detonated explosives.
“Black smoke rose and spread everywhere, dead bodies were everywhere,” he told Reuters, adding that his nephews were among the dead. “I myself survived, but lost my beloved ones,” he said. One man who was inside the mosque at the time told Reuters the huge blast tore through the building during prayers, the explosion burning his feet and hands. Mohammad Sabir, a resident in the area, said he had seen people being loaded into ambulances after the explosion.
“The blast was very loud, I thought my eardrums were cracked,” he said. Emergency Hospital in downtown Kabul said it was treating 20 patients wounded in the blast. A nurse at another hospital, who declined to be named, said they had received several injured people in critical condition. Scores of Afghan civilians have been killed in recent weeks in blasts, some of which have been claimed by the Islamic State. The latest attack came on the last Friday in the month of Ramazan.
The country’s Taliban rulers say they have secured the country since taking power in August and largely eliminated Daesh’s local offshoot, but international officials and analysts say the risk of a resurgence in militancy remains. Many of the attacks have targeted the Shia religious minority, however, Sunni mosques have also been attacked. Bombs exploded aboard two passenger vans carrying Shias in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Thursday, killing at least nine people. Last Friday, a blast tore through a Sunni mosque during Friday prayers in the city of Kunduz, killing 33 people.
“The blast occurred two hours after Friday prayers as worshippers were performing rituals,” interior ministry deputy spokesman Bismillah Habib told AFP, adding at least 15 people were injured. Friday’s blast came hours after Afghanistan’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada praised the country’s security apparatus in a message ahead of Eidul Fitr. 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”.
Meanwhile, Pakistan on Friday strongly condemned the terrorist attacks in Mazar-i-Sharif. “The government and people of Pakistan extend their sympathies, support and solidarity to the people of Afghanistan and particularly with the bereaved families,” the Foreign Office said in a statement. The FO said targeting Hazara and Shia communities in Afghanistan through these acts of terrorism was also a matter of serious concern.
“We believe these heinous acts of terrorism against innocent Afghans are aimed at weakening the resolve of the Afghan nation in pursuit of peace, stability and progress,” it said. “We urge the international community to extend all possible support and assistance to Afghanistan in combating terrorism and overcoming these challenges,” it said.