ISIS claims deadly Afghanistan explosion at Mazar-i-Sharif mosque

Blast hit a Shiite place of worship in the main city of northern Balkh province

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An explosion at a Shiite mosque in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Thursday killed or wounded at least 20 people, a local Taliban commander said.

"A blast happened in 2nd district inside a Shiite mosque, more than 20 killed and injured," Mohammad Asif Wazeri, the spokesman for the Taliban commander in Mazar-i-Sharif, told Reuters.

The blast took place at a Shiite mosque, Zabihullah Noorani, the head of the Balkh province information department, told the Associated Press.

Extremist group ISIS claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack, according to a statement on the group's Telegram channel, Reuters reported.

"Blood and fear are everywhere," Ahmad Zia Zindani, spokesman for the Balkh provincial public health department, told AFP. He said "people were screaming" while seeking news of their relatives at the hospital.

He said 12 people were killed in the blast and 58 wounded, including 32 in serious condition.

"Relatives of victims were arriving at city hospitals looking for their near and dear ones. Many residents were also coming to donate blood," Mr Zindani said.

In another attack on Thursday, a roadside bomb wounded at least two children in the Afghanistan capital Kabul, police said.

Police spokesman Khalid Zadran said in a tweet that the explosives went off in a road in a mostly Shiite neighbourhood in the western part of the city. Several explosions rocked educational institutions in the same area two days earlier, killing at least six people, mostly children, and wounding 17 others.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Thursday’s explosion in Kabul.

The Shiite community, a religious minority in Afghanistan, is frequently the target of militant groups including ISIS.

Taliban officials insist their forces have defeated the group but analysts say ISIS terrorists remain a key security challenge.

Since seizing power, the Taliban have regularly raided suspected ISIS hideouts in the eastern Nangarhar province.

A resident of Mazar-i-Sharif said she was shopping with her sister at a nearby market when she heard a loud explosion and saw smoke rising from the area around the mosque.

"The glass of the shops was broken and it was very crowded and everyone started to run," said the woman, who declined to be named.

Updated: April 22, 2022, 5:09 AM