Taliban authorities and hospital sources in Afghanistan said Wednesday that a powerful bomb blast ripped through a packed mosque in the capital, Kabul, during evening prayers, causing dozens of casualties.
Khalid Zadran, a city police spokesman, told VOA that “there are casualties and fatalities” but he would not give further details. Intelligence teams and investigators had arrived at the blast site and investigations were underway, he added.
Multiple sources reported that at least 20 worshippers were killed and many more were wounded in what reportedly was a suicide blast. Maulvi Amir Mohammad Kabuli, a renowned Afghan scholar and preacher of Sufi Islam, was said to be among the dead.
An eyewitness and police officers were quoted as confirming to The Associated Press the deaths of at least 10 people, including Kabuli. Taliban officials did not comment on the casualties.
The Italy-run EMERGENCY charity hospital in Kabul said in a statement that of the 27 victims brought to the facility from the blast site, two were dead and a third patient died in the emergency room. It said five children, including a 7-year-old child, were among the injured.
The ruling group’s chief spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, condemned the deadly attack, saying the “perpetrators of such crimes will soon be brought to justice and will be punished.”
No one immediately took responsibility for the attack on the Siddiquiya Mosque in Kabul's northern Kher Khanna neighborhood.
Suspicions fell on the self-proclaimed Islamic State terrorist group, however, which condemns Muslims practicing Sufism as polytheists.
The Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), the Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State, has stepped up attacks in Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power a year ago. The terror outfit has carried out bomb attacks against Taliban fighters and civilians, particularly minority Afghan Shiite Muslims whom ISIS-K denounces as apostates.
Last week, an Islamic State suicide bomber killed a prominent and highly respected Taliban scholar inside his Islamic seminary, or madrasa, in Kabul.
The Taliban repeatedly have claimed they degraded ISIS-K in military operations. Critics question those claims, though, in the wake of recent high-profile attacks in Kabul and deadly bombings elsewhere in Afghanistan.