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17 Dead in Afghanistan Mosque Blast


Afghan policemen inspect a mosque after a blast in Khost province, Afghanistan, May 6, 2018.

A powerful bomb ripped through a crowded mosque being used as a voter registration center in southeastern Afghanistan, killing at least 17 worshipers and wounding 33 others.

The attack came hours after unknown gunmen in a northern Afghan region kidnapped seven engineers, mostly Indian nationals.

The mosque bombing occurred in Khost province, which borders Pakistan. Provincial Afghan police chief Abdul Hanan confirmed the death toll to VOA, saying he anticipated the death toll to rise.

Hanan said initial probe suggested the blast was caused by a planted device, though initial reports said a suicide bomber carried out the attack.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the deadly violence. The Taliban has denied involvement.

Late last month, a suicide bomber detonated his vest at a voters’ identification card distribution center in Kabul, killing nearly 60 people and wounding over 100 others.

Islamic State claimed claimed responsibility for that attack.

Indian engineers kidnapped

Afghan officials said that six Indian engineers along with their local colleague went missing Sunday morning near Pul-e-Khomri, the capital of restive northern Baghlan province.

The abductees were working at an electricity substation and were traveling to work when “armed men” ambushed them and took them away, a provincial police spokesman, Zabihullah Shuja, told VOA.

The victims were employees of an Indian company that runs the substation.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the incident in an Afghan province where Taliban insurgents contest several districts.

Transmission lines and installations in Baghlan are used to supply electricity imported from the neighboring Central Asian countries of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to northern Afghan provinces, including Kabul.

Last month, the Taliban destroyed a key tower during fighting with Afghan forces, plunging the national capital and a vast area in northern Afghanistan into darkness for several days.

Afghan forces retake northern district

Meanwhile, officials in nearby northern Badakhshan province confirmed Sunday that Afghan security forces, backed by airpower, have retaken a district from the Taliban.

The insurgents had last week overrun Kohistan, which borders Pakistan after several days of intense clashes.

A provincial government spokesman said the retreating Taliban suffered heavy casualties, but he gave no numbers.

The Islamist insurgency announced its annual spring offensive last month, leading to an intensification in violence across Afghanistan.

Officials also confirmed a roadside bomb struck a passenger vehicle in northern Faryab province, killing seven people. The victims were shopkeepers on their way to market.

Saturday, three heavily armed suicide bombers attacked a house belonging to Abdula Razeq, the powerful police chief of the southern Kandahar province. One assailant blew himself up at the entrance of the building while the other two were gunned down by Afghan security forces.

Razeq later told VOA that neither he nor his family members were present at the house when the attack occurred in the town of Spin Boldak on the Pakistani border.

The police chief has a fearsome reputation fighting the Taliban and has survived many assassination attempts.

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