Kabul mosque bomb kills 5 civilians, Taliban say
IN DEVELOPMENT … The story will be updated as new information can be verified. Updated 4 times
KABUL, Afghanistan – At least five civilians were killed in a bomb explosion at the entrance to a Kabul mosque on Sunday, a Taliban official said, describing the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital since departure of American forces at the end of August.
There has been no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion has centered on Islamic State extremists who have stepped up attacks on the Taliban in recent weeks, particularly in ISIS stronghold in the eastern Afghanistan.
An apparent roadside bomb exploded at the door of Kabul’s sprawling Eidgah Mosque as a memorial service was being held for the mother of Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. Qari Saeed Khosti confirmed the deaths.
Three suspects have been arrested, said Bilal Karimi, official spokesperson for the Taliban. Taliban fighters were not injured in the attack, he said. He added that the investigation was ongoing.
Mohammad Israil, a resident of Kabul, said he heard “a loud noise” and saw people fleeing.
An Italian-funded emergency hospital in Kabul tweeted that it had received four people injured in the blast.
The area around the mosque was cordoned off by the Taliban, who maintained a strong security presence. Later in the afternoon the site was cleaned up. The only signs of the explosion were slight damage to the ornamental arch near the front door.
Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in mid-August, attacks by ISIS militants against them have increased. This increase has raised the possibility of a wider conflict between the two extremist groups.
IS maintains a strong presence in the eastern province of Nangarhar and views the Taliban as an enemy. IS has claimed responsibility for several attacks on the Taliban, including several killings in the provincial capital of Jalalabad.
Sunday’s attack is the first to target the capital since late August, when an IS suicide bomber targeted US evacuation efforts outside Kabul International Airport. The explosion killed 169 Afghans and 13 US servicemen and was one of the country’s deadliest attacks in years.
It was claimed by the Islamic State of Khorasan province, affiliated with ISIS.
Attacks in Kabul have been rare so far, but in recent weeks ISIS has shown signs that it is expanding its footprint beyond the east and closing in on the capital.
Taliban fighters attacked an IS hideout just north of Kabul in Parwan province on Friday. The raid came after an IS roadside bomb injured four Taliban fighters in the area.