Pro-Taliban Afghan cleric among at least 18 killed in mosque blast in Herat

More than 20 injured in explosion at crowded Guzargah Mosque in western city during Friday prayers

Taliban fighters patrol after the fatal blast during Friday prayers at the Gazargah Mosque, in the western Afghan city of Herat. AFP
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At least 18 people, including a prominent cleric, were killed in an explosion at a crowded mosque in western Afghanistan on Friday, Taliban officials and a local medic said.

More than 20 people were injured in the blast in the Guzargah Mosque, in the western city of Herat, during midday prayers.

The explosion killed Mujib-ul Rahman Ansari, a prominent cleric who was known across Afghanistan for his criticism of the country’s western-backed governments over the past two decades.

Ansari was seen as close to the Taliban, who seized control over the country a year ago as foreign forces withdrew.

His death was confirmed by the chief Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid.

Ambulances transported 21 wounded people and 18 bodies from the mosque to hospitals in Herat, said Mohammad Daud Mohammadi, an official with the Herat ambulance centre.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast.

Previous mosque bombings have been claimed by ISIS, which has carried out a series of attacks against religious and ethnic minorities in Afghanistan, as well as Taliban targets.

The Herat mosque draws followers of Sunni Islam, the dominant stream in Afghanistan and that followed by the Taliban.

In the year since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, ISIS — whose followers are Sunnis — has attacked several mosques in suicide attacks during Friday prayers, with a focus on Shiite Muslims.

With reporting from agencies.

Updated: September 02, 2022, 12:31 PM