blast-at-afghan-mosque-kills-or-wounds-dozens,-taliban-and-aid-groups-say

A powerful explosion hit a Shiite Muslim mosque in northern Afghanistan on Friday, killing or wounding at least 100 people, according to a Taliban official and a United Nations agency.

So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the blast, which happened during a weekly prayer service in Kunduz, the capital of the province of the same name. 

The Islamic State terrorist group has a history of launching attacks against the country’s Shiite Muslim minority.

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If the death toll is confirmed to be in the dozens, it would be the worst attack to hit Afghanistan since the August suicide bombing at Kabul airport as U.S. troops were withdrawing from the country.

In a statement published on Twitter, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said that “initial information indicates more than 100 people killed and injured” in the blast.

“The UN family in #Afghanistan is deeply concerned by reports of very high casualties” it said. 

The Kunduz explosion went off during the weekly Friday prayer service at the Gozar-e-Sayed Abad Mosque.Abdullah Sahil / AP

Doctors Without Borders “implemented a mass casualty plan” for its Kunduz trauma center, the medical charity’s United Kingdom spokesperson, Dalila Mahdawi, told NBC News.

“As of now, 90 wounded and 20 dead have been brought to the hospital and the team are working tirelessly in the emergency room and operating theaters,” she said.

Mahdawi added that further casualties were being received at the nearby regional hospital.

Dost Mohammad Obaida, deputy police chief for Kunduz province, said the “majority” of attendees at the prayer service “have been killed,” according to The Associated Press.

He said the attack may have been carried out by a suicide bomber who would have entered the mosque among worshippers.  

“I assure our Shiite brothers that the Taliban are prepared to ensure their safety,” Obaida said, adding that an investigation was underway.

Chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said earlier that the Shiite mosque was the target and that a “large number” of worshippers were killed and wounded.

The Friday noon prayer is the highlight of the week, and mosques are typically crowded.Abdullah Sahil / AP

Witness Ali Reza told AP he was praying when the blast hit the mosque. He said he saw many casualties.

It comes as the Taliban leadership contends with a growing threat from the Islamic State Khorasan group, or ISIS-K. 

Taliban fighters have been targeted in a series of deadly attacks by their rival militants, including shooting ambushes and an explosion at a mosque in the nation’s capital, Kabul.

ISIS has also declared war on Afghanistan’s minority Shiites and has taken responsibility for some of the worst attacks targeting the community, including attacks on their mosques in Kabul and the western province of Herat.

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