At least 62 people have been killed and 70 others injured in a suicide bombing that hit a crowded Shia mosque in southern Afghanistan, according to the Kabul-based Bakhtar news agency.
The Imam Barga Mosque in Kandahar was packed with worshipers attending weekly Friday prayers.
The attack comes a week after a bomb attack, claimed by a local Daesh affiliate, killed 46 people at a Shiite mosque in northern Afghanistan.
Murtaza, an eyewitness who, like many Afghans, has only one name, said four suicide bombers attacked the mosque. Two detonated their explosives at a security door, allowing the other two to run inside and hit the congregation of worshippers.
Speaking to The Associated Press (AP) by phone, he said Friday prayers were usually attended by around 500 people. Video footage from the scene showed bodies strewn across bloodstained carpets, survivors walking around in a daze or screaming in anguish.
Daesh has claimed a number of deadly bombings across the country since the Taliban seized power in August amid the withdrawal of US forces. The group has also targeted Taliban fighters in small attacks. Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi confirmed the blast and said an investigation was underway, without giving further details.
A provincial hospital official said the facility had received 37 dead bodies and 70 injured, adding that the death toll was likely to rise. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to brief the media. The Taliban are committed to restoring peace and security after decades of war.
“Thirty-two bodies and 53 injured have been brought to our hospital so far,” a doctor at the city’s Mirwais Central Hospital told Agence France-Presse (AFP). Other medical sources and a provincial official confirmed a death toll of more than 30 people and at least 15 ambulances were rushing to and from the scene.
The mosque’s Facebook account has appealed for blood donations.
An eyewitness told AFP he heard three explosions, one at the mosque’s main gate, another in a southern area and a third where worshipers wash before their prayers. Another witness also said three explosions rocked the mosque in the center of town during Friday prayers, the busiest congregation of the week.
“We are saddened to learn that an explosion has occurred at a Shiite Brotherhood Mosque in Kandahar City’s First District in which a number of our compatriots were martyred and injured,” the doorstep tweeted. – Taliban interior ministry spokesman Qari Sayed Khosti. “Special forces from the Islamic Emirate have arrived in the area to determine the nature of the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
In October 2017, suicide bomber Deash hit a Shia mosque west of Kabul, killing 56 people and injuring 55.