A bomb explosion ripped through a crowded Shi’ite Muslim mosque in northern Afghanistan Thursday, killing at least 17 worshipers and wounding 52 others.
The deadly bombing in Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of the northern Balkh province, occurred during midday prayers, said local Taliban authorities.
Ghousuddin Anwari, the head of the provincial Abu Ali Sina-e-Balkhi hospital, told VOA that at least six of those wounded were in “critical condition.” Eyewitnesses reported the number of casualties was much higher.
Islamic State terror group’s Afghan affiliate, known as the Islamic State Khorasan Province or IS-Khorasan, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to SITE intelligence group, which tracks terrorist propaganda.
Authorities in the nearby Kunduz province also reported a bomb explosion in the provincial capital, also named Kunduz, but did not share immediate details. Local media reports quoted Taliban officials as saying a vehicle transporting airport workshop employees was the target of the bombing, killing four of them and wounding 18 others.
Separately, a roadside bomb attack Thursday wounded two children in a Shiite neighborhood in western Kabul, the Afghan capital, said Khalid Zadran, the city police spokesman.
And an overnight bomb blast in Khogiani, a troubled district in the eastern Nangarhar province, killed at least four Taliban security personnel.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombings in Kunduz, western Kabul and Nangarhar province.
Thursday's roadside blast in Kabul happened in the same western neighborhood where multiple bomb explosions at a boys’ school and nearby tuition center two days ago killed six people and wounded 17 others.
The victims were mostly Shiite Hazara children. No one took responsibility for that attack, though nearly all bomb and gun attacks against the Hazara community in recent years have been claimed by IS-Khorasan.
The Hazara community is considered the most persecuted minority group in Afghanistan. They are despised by Sunni Muslim militant groups like ISKP and discriminated against by many in the Sunni-majority country.
ISKP has increased attacks against minority Shiites and the Taliban. The Islamist Taliban regained power in Afghanistan last August, days before the U.S.-led international troops withdrew after 20 years of involvement in the war with the hardline insurgent group.
Last May, three months before the then-Western-backed Afghan government collapsed, bomb blasts outside a school for girls in western Kabul, killed at least 90 people, almost all of them members of the Hazara community. ISKP claimed responsibility.
The Taliban have condemned attacks by ISKP and have repeatedly pledged to counter the group’s activities and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan. Earlier this month, Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi claimed that their interim government has reined in ISKP activities.
But recent spike in terrorism-related incidents have raised questions about Taliban claims and worried neighboring countries as well as the global community at large about the resurgence of the terror threat in Afghanistan.