AFGHANISTAN: A massive explosion at a mosque in the Afghan city of Herat on Friday massacred at least 18 people, including a top pro-Taliban cleric, in what authorities say was an attack. The blast went off in the Guzargah Mosque during Friday noon prayers.
A spokesperson for the interior ministry, Abdul Nafi Takor, said, “18 have been killed, and 23 have been injured”.
Herat’s police spokesman, Mahmood Rasooli, said that the high-ranking cleric and Taliban supporter killed in the attack, Mujib Rahman Ansari, was among the dead, along with some of his guards and civilians as they proceeded to the mosque for Friday prayers.
“Mujib Rahman Ansari with some of his guards and civilians have been killed on their way toward the mosque,” said Rasooli. “One of the suicide bombers blew himself up while kissing his hands.”
Several images of the aftermath made the rounds on social media today, showing graphic visuals of what seemed like blood-stained body parts strewn across the mosque compound.
Meanwhile, the Al Jazeera news network cited unnamed informants, confirming 28 people had been killed and nearly 45 grievously injured.
Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid expressed his “strong condolences” over Ansari’s demise in a tweet and assured his attackers would be strongly chastised.
Mujib Rahman Ansari had previously spoken strongly in defence of the Taliban at a mass gathering of thousands of scholars and elders organised by the group in late June, publicly condemning anyone who stood against their administration.
The Taliban claim they have tightened security in the country since their takeover around a year ago. However, contrary reports suggest the repeated occurrences of several blasts in recent months, some of them targeting crowded mosques during prayer times. The United Nations has expressed concerns over the frequency of the attacks, some of which have been claimed to be perpetrated by the Islamic State (IS).
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday’s attacks.
Also Read: 12 People Killed in Kabul Mosque Blast