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Suicide Bombers Kill Dozens at Shiite Mosque

People inspect the inside of a mosque following a suicide bombers attack in the city of Kandahar, southwest Afghanistan, Oct. 15, 2021.
People inspect the inside of a mosque following a suicide bombers attack in the city of Kandahar, southwest Afghanistan, Oct. 15, 2021.

Suicide bombers struck a Shiite mosque Friday in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, killing at least 47 people and wounding more than 70, according to a Taliban official.

Witnesses said two to four suicide bombers carried out the attack.

One witness said he was inside the mosque and heard two explosions inside the mosque and two outside. A second witness, Murtaza, who was in charge of mosque security, told The Associated Press he saw one attacker outside the gate and one inside the mosque. Murtaza, who like many Afghans uses only one name, said security personnel shot a third suspected attacker outside the mosque.

The mosque’s imam, Sardar Mohammad Zaidi, said there were four attackers, two outside and two inside, Reuters reported.

Islamic State Khorasan Province claimed responsibility for the attack, saying on its Telegram channels that it was carried out by two suicide bombers.

The blasts went off during Friday prayers, usually attended by large crowds. Pictures and videos shared on social media showed a bloody scene inside the mosque, with bodies and body parts strewn about and worshippers trying to rescue the wounded.

"When I arrived at the mosque, I saw injured, dead bodies, and people who had fallen on top of each other," Haji Sarwar Hazara, a local construction contractor who arrived soon after the blast, told Reuters.

Hafiz Sayeed, the Taliban chief for Kandahar's department of culture and information, later told The Associated Press at least 47 people were killed and at least 70 wounded.

The attack came a week after a Friday-prayer bombing in another Afghan city, Kunduz, left more than 50 dead. That attack was also claimed by Islamic State Khorasan Province, the local branch of the Islamic State group. IS Khorasan had claimed a Uyghur carried out the Kunduz attack.

In an interview with VOA earlier this week, Taliban Deputy Information Minister Zabihulah Mujahid denied that IS was a serious threat, despite multiple attacks, including one on a gathering for the last rituals of Mujahid’s own mother in Kabul.

He said the only reason IS Khorasan had managed to carry out attacks in recent weeks was that the Taliban broke open many jails when it took over the country, allowing IS Khorasan facilitators to escape.

“Our forces are trying to find its roots. In the last week-and-a-half we have arrested several people belonging to IS and have destroyed several of their safe houses. We have neutralized several of their attacks,” Mujahid said.

IS Khorasan claimed a Uyghur had carried out the Kunduz attack, but Mujahid said China had not discussed the issue with the Taliban.

Friday’s bombing was the fourth high-profile bombing claimed by IS Khorasan since Aug. 15, the day the Taliban took control of Kabul.

The group also claimed responsibility for the deadly attack on Kabul airport while thousands of Afghans who were fleeing from the Taliban were being evacuated. That attack killed nearly 100 Afghans and 13 American service personnel.

VOA’s Ayaz Gul contributed to this report.

Some information came from The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.