ISIS suicide bomber kills 50 in Afghan mosque during Friday prayers

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Afghan mosque that killed at least 50 people (Images: AFP)

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Afghan mosque that killed at least 50 people (Images: AFP)

A suicide blast tore through a crowded Shiite Muslim mosque in northern Afghanistan yesterday, killing 50 people and wounding dozens.

The so-called Islamic State group has already claimed responsibility for the blast, according to a statement issued by the group’s news agency Amaq.

He added that a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest among Shiite worshipers inside a mosque during Friday prayers in the city of Kunduz.

The attack was the latest in a series of bombings and shootings by the Islamic State that have targeted Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers, as well as religious institutions and members of the country’s Shiite minority.

The blast ripped through the mosque during noon prayers, the highlight of the Muslim religious week.

It blew up windows, charred the roof, and scattered debris and twisted metal across the floor.

Hussaindad Rezayee, a resident of the area, said he ran to the mosque when he heard the explosion, just as prayers began.

He said: ‘I came to find my relatives, the mosque was full.’

People carry the body of a bombing victim in northern Afghanistan's Kunduz province on Friday, October 8, 2021. A powerful explosion at a mosque frequented by a Muslim religious minority in northern Afghanistan on Friday left several victims, witnesses and the Taliban spokesperson.  said.  (AP Photo / Abdullah Sahil)

People carry the body of a victim of the attack in Kunduz province, in northern Afghanistan (Image: AP)

People see the damage inside the mosque after the explosion (Image: AP)

People see the damage inside the mosque after the explosion (Image: AP)

The worshipers were Hazaras, who have long suffered double discrimination as an ethnic minority and as followers of Shiite Islam in a Sunni-majority country.

The Islamic State has been behind an increase in attacks, including against the Taliban, since the departure of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan in late August.

The IS and the Taliban, who took control of the country with the departure of foreign troops in August, are strategic rivals, and IS militants have even targeted their positions.

In the past, the Taliban have managed to contain the threat from the Islamic State along with American and Afghan airstrikes.

Without these, it is unclear whether the Taliban can suppress what appears to be a growing footprint of IS.

The militants, once confined to the east, have penetrated the capital of Kabul and other provinces with fresh attacks.

Senior Taliban officials and US representatives are scheduled to hold talks this weekend on containing the extremist group and facilitating the evacuation of foreign nationals and Afghans from the country.

This is the first such meeting since US forces withdrew from the country in late August, ending a 20-year military presence there and leading the Taliban to regain power in the nation.

In Kunduz, police officers were still picking up the pieces on Friday at the Gozar-e-Sayed Abad mosque.

Afghan men carry the body of a victim to an ambulance after the bomb attack (Image: AFP)

Afghan men carry the body of a victim to an ambulance after the bomb attack (Image: AFP)

Citing preliminary reports, Kunduz Province Taliban Deputy Police Chief Dost Mohammad Obaida said that more than 100 people had been killed or injured and that he believed the dead outnumbered the wounded.

An official at Kunduz Provincial Hospital said at least 46 people died and 51 were injured.

He said the figures were preliminary because the victims were also being transferred to private hospitals, yet this is already the highest death toll in an attack since foreign troops left Afghanistan.

The United Nations mission in the country condemned the attack as “part of a disturbing pattern of violence” against religious institutions.

Mr. Obaida pledged to protect minorities in the province, adding: “I assure our Shiite brothers that the Taliban are prepared to guarantee their safety.”

Members of the Taliban inspect the bombing site (Image: Xinhua / REX / Shutterstock)

Members of the Taliban inspect the bombing site (Image: Xinhua / REX / Shutterstock)

A prominent Shiite cleric, Sayed Hussain Alimi Balkhi, condemned the attack and called on the Taliban to provide security for the Shiites in Afghanistan.

He said: ‘We hope that the government security forces will provide security to the mosques as they collected the weapons that were provided for the security of the places of worship.’

The new tone adopted by the Taliban, at least in Kunduz, stands in stark contrast to the well-documented history of Taliban fighters committing a litany of atrocities against minorities, including Hazaras.

The Taliban, now feeling the weight to rule, employed similar tactics to ISIS during their 20-year insurgency, including suicide bombings and ambushes, and they have not stopped attacks against the Hazaras.

Earlier this week, an Amnesty International report found that the Taliban illegally killed 13 Hazaras, including a 17-year-old girl, in Daykundi province after members of the former government’s security forces surrendered.

In Kunduz province, the Hazaras make up about 6% of the population of almost one million people.

The province also has a large ethnic Uzbek population that has been the subject of recruitment.

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