Kabul, Afghanistan — A bombing at a mosque in thecapital of Kabul during evening prayers on Wednesday killed at least 21 people, including a prominent cleric, and wounded at least 33, police and an eyewitness said.
Khalid Zadran, the Taliban-appointed spokesman for Kabul’s police chief, gave the figures to The Associated Press after Wednesday’s bombing at the Sunni mosque.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, the latest to strike the country in. Several children were reported to be among the wounded.
The local ISIS affiliate has stepped up attacks targeting the Taliban and civilians since the former insurgents’ takeover last August as U.S. and NATO troops were in the final stages of their withdrawal from the country. Last week, ISIS claimed responsibility for killing a prominent Taliban cleric at his religious center in Kabul.
According to an eyewitness, a resident of the city’s Kher Khanna neighborhood where the Siddiquiya Mosque was targeted, the explosion was carried out by a suicide bomber. The slain cleric was Mullah Amir Mohammad Kabuli, the eyewitness said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid vowed that the “perpetrators of such crimes will soon be brought to justice and will be punished.”
Oone witness to the blast who gave his name as Qyaamuddin told The Associated Press, “It was evening prayer time, and I was attending the prayer with others, when the explosion happened.” Some Afghans go by a single name.
AP journalists could see the blue-roofed, Sunni mosque from a nearby hillside. The Taliban parked police trucks and other vehicles at the mosque.
A U.S.-led invasion toppled the previous Taliban government, which had hosted al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Since regaining power, the former insurgents have faced a crippling economic crisis since the international community, which doesn’t recognize the Taliban government, froze funding to the country.
Separately, the Taliban confirmed on Wednesday that they had captured and killed Mehdi Mujahid in western Herat province as he was trying to cross the border into Iran.
Mujahid was a former Taliban commander in the district of Balkhab in northern Sar-e-Pul province and the only member of the minority Shiite Hazara community among the Taliban ranks.
Mujahid had turned against the Taliban over the past year after opposing decisions made by Taliban leaders in Kabul.