Blast at Afghan Mosque Kills and Injures More Than a Dozen
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A blast in a mosque in southern Afghanistan killed and wounded more than a dozen people during Friday Prayer, residents said, the second such attack on a Shiite place of worship on successive Fridays in the country.
The attack, which eyewitnesses said involved multiple blasts, took place in Kandahar city — considered the heart of the re-established Taliban government. And though no group claimed responsibility for the explosions, the Islamic State said it was behind a similar strike on a Shiite mosque in Kunduz Province, in the northern part of the country, on Oct. 8 that killed more than 40 people.
“It was hard to count the casualties — but I saw more than seven dead and around 13 to 15 were severely injured, said Mohammad Ali, a worshiper at the mosque who witnessed Friday’s blast.
“We have no idea if it was a suicide bomber or an I.E.D. — but it was powerful, human flesh and blood were seen all around the mosque,” he said, referring to an improvised explosive device.
A doctor at Mirwais hospital in Kandahar, one of the main medical facilities in Kandahar, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the toll was far greater, saying there were at least 40 dead from three different blasts at the mosque.
Mr. Ali said the Taliban arrived shortly after the attack and cordoned off the area. The insurgents-turned-rulers have highlighted their ability to provide security to Afghan citizens following the collapse of the western-backed government in August.
But that pledge has become increasingly difficult to uphold as Taliban fighters are now responsible for securing major urban centers such as Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city, and the country’s capital, Kabul.
The Islamic State Khorasan, also known as ISIS-K, has long had a presence in Afghanistan’s east but has rarely attacked in the country’s south.
If the attack was indeed carried out by the terrorist group it would represent a significant display of the Islamic State’s newly established reach as it launches its reinvigorated campaign of violence against the people of Afghanistan.
ISIS-K is a Sunni extremist group that has long targeted Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan, focusing heavily on the Hazara ethnic minority, much like it did in last week’s attack in Kunduz.
Taimoor Shah reported from Kandahar, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kabul.