By KATHY GANNON and MOHAMMAD SHAOB AMIN
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A Taliban official said a bomb attack on a mosque and a religious school in northern Afghanistan on Friday killed at least 33 people, including students at a religious school.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s deputy culture and information minister, said the bombing in the town of Imam Saheb, Kunduz province, also injured 43 other people, including many students.
No one immediately claimed responsibility, but the Islamic State‘s Afghan affiliate on Friday claimed responsibility for a series of bombings that had taken place a day earlier, the worst of which was an attack on a Shia mosque in northern Mazar-e-Sharif who killed at least 12 Shia Muslim worshippers. and the wounded count more.
Earlier, Kunduz provincial police spokesman reported two dead and six injured at Malawi’s Bashir Ahmad Mosque and Imam Saheb Madrassa compound. Mujahid then tweeted the higher number of victims tweeting “we condemn this crime. . . and express our deepest condolences to the victims.
Friday’s bombing is the latest in a series of deadly attacks across Afghanistan. Mujahid called the perpetrators of the Kunduz attack “seditionists and evil elements”.
The United Nations called the attack “horrific”. Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan Ramiz Alakbarov said in a tweet that “the killings must stop now and the perpetrators brought to justice.”
Since coming to power last August, the Taliban have been battling the upstart Islamic State affiliate known as Islamic State in Khorasan Province or IS-K, which is proving to be a challenge for insoluble security for the Afghan religious government.
Last October, IS-K also claimed responsibility for a brutal bombing in the northern province of Kunduz against a Shiite mosque that killed at least 50 people and injured more than 100. In November, the Taliban intelligence unit carried out sweeping attacks on suspected IS-K hideouts in eastern Nangarhar. province, where the murderous branch is headquartered.
In a statement on Friday, IS-K said the explosive device that devastated the Sai Doken mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif was hidden in a bag left inside among dozens of worshippers. As they knelt in prayer, he exploded.
“When the mosque was filled with prayers, the explosives detonated from a distance,” the IS statement said, saying 100 people were injured.
The Taliban say they arrested a former IS-K leader in the northern province of Balkh, of which Mazar-e-Sharif is the capital. Zabihullah Noorani, head of Balkh province’s information and culture department, said Abdul Hamid Sangaryar was arrested in connection with Thursday’s mosque attack.
IS-K had been relatively inactive in Afghanistan since last November, but in recent weeks it has intensified its attacks in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, targeting Shia Muslim communities vilified by Sunni radicals.
Earlier this month, two bombs exploded in the Shia neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi in Kabul, killing at least seven students and injuring several others.
IS-K established its headquarters in eastern Afghanistan in 2014 and has been blamed for some of the worst attacks in Afghanistan, including a brutal attack on a maternity hospital and school that killed more than 80 girls in 2021, months before the Taliban. took power.
IS-K also took responsibility for a brutal bombing outside Kabul International Airport in August 2021 that killed more than 160 Afghans who had pushed to enter the airport to flee the country. Thirteen American servicemen were also killed while overseeing America’s final withdrawal and the end of its 20-year war in Afghanistan.
In recent months, IS-K has also intensified its attacks in neighboring Pakistan, targeting a Shiite mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar in March. More than 65 worshipers were killed. The upstart affiliate also claimed several deadly attacks on the Pakistani military.
In the city of Faisalabad in central Punjab, Pakistan, local police issued a threat warning on Thursday, saying “it has been learned that ISIS-Khas are planning to carry out terrorist activities in Faisalabad”, advising people to “be extremely vigilant”. The police warning did not give details.
Meanwhile, on Thursday evening, a Pakistani soldier was killed in the southwestern province of Balochistan after militants attacked a security outpost. No one has claimed responsibility. The area has been targeted by both IS-K as well as the violent Pakistani Taliban militants known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also based in neighboring Afghanistan.
The militant groups’ safe havens in Afghanistan have raised concerns for Pakistan, which earlier this month carried out airstrikes inside Pakistan, killing at least 20 children, according to the United Nations Education Fund ( UNICEF).
Pakistan did not confirm the strikes but warned the Afghan Taliban to stop using its territory to attack across the border from Pakistan.
In separate incidents, five children were killed in Faryab province in northern Afghanistan on Friday while playing with unexploded ordnance. In one incident, three brothers died when they found an unexploded device and attempted to dismantle it. In a second incident in another village, two children, aged 7 and 8, were killed while playing with a device, said Shamsullah Mohammadi, provincial information and culture officer in Faryab.
After more than four decades of war, which included two invasions – one by the former Soviet Union and one by the US-led coalition – Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world and littered unexploded ordnance.
Gannon reported from Islamabad. Associated Press writer Tameem Akhgar in Islamabad, Asim Tanvir in Multan, Pakistan and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report