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Suicide Bombers Hit Afghan Shiite Mosque, Killing Dozens


FILE - Afghan security forces inspect the aftermath of a suicide bomb blast in Gardez, Paktia Province, Afghanistan, June 18, 2017.

A pair of suicide bombers, armed with assault rifles, stormed a crowded Shi’ite mosque in eastern Afghanistan during Friday prayers, killing at least 29 worshippers and wounding more than 81 others.

The assailants entered the mosque in Gardez, the capital of eastern Paktia province, and sprayed worshippers with bullets before blowing themselves up, the provincial police chief, Raz Mohammad Mandozai, told VOA.

The provincial health director, Walayat Khan Ahmadzai, told VOA that scores of injured people have been taken to two city hospitals.

Gardez, Afghanistan
Gardez, Afghanistan

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the bloodshed in Paktia, which borders Pakistan.

Taliban jailbreak

Separately, Afghan commandos have raided a Taliban-run prison in southern Helmand province and freed 61 inmates.

The regional military commander confirmed the action, saying mostly civilians were among those rescued overnight in the Kajaki district. General Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai told VOA the freed men had been in Taliban captivity for months.

The general said the rescue operation killed or wounded several insurgents guarding the illegal detention center, while an unspecified number of others were taken into custody.

A spokesman for Afghan Special forces told local media that four soldiers and 15 policemen were also among those freed from the Taliban jail.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, confirmed the raid on what he asserted was a civilian prison for drug addicts and those involved in crimes, including robbery, kidnappings, drugs and “immoral activities.”

Ahmadi claimed in a statement sent to reporters that Thursday night’s attack on the detention facility was carried out jointly by Afghan and American forces.

The Afghan government controls only the district center while the rest of Kajaki has been for years held by the Taliban.

The Islamist insurgency controls or hotly contests most of Helmand’s 14 districts. The largest Afghan province, which borders neighboring Pakistan, is a major poppy-producing region.

U.S.-trained Afghan commando forces in recent months have raided several Taliban-held detention centers in Helmand and nearby Uruzgan province, freeing scores of inmates.