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A large bomb struck a mosque in Kabul during evening prayers on Wednesday, killing up to 60 people.
The Taliban’s Kabul police spokesman, Khalid Zadran, told local media that an explosion had occurred in the city’s 17th district, which is located in northern Kabul. Taliban forces have arrived on the scene.
The number of casualties has not been disclosed by the police. According to Indian television network TV9, 60 people were killed and more than 30 were injured.
According to a Taliban intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the explosion occurred in a mosque among worshippers in Kabul’s Khair Khana neighborhood.
The Imam of the mosque was said to be among those killed and the toll could still rise, the source added. Intelligence teams were at blast site and investigations were ongoing.
Emergency NGO, a Kabul hospital, tweeted that they had received 27 people so far following an explosion ‘in the PD17 area’.
‘5 children among them, including a 7-year-old,’the official account added.
Witnesses said powerful explosion was heard in a northern Kabul neighbourhood, shattering windows in nearby buildings. Ambulances rushed to the spot.
‘A blast happened inside a mosque…. the blast has casualties, but the numbers are not clear yet,’ Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zadran told Reuters.
Other officials in the Taliban government did not reply to multiple requests to confirm the number of casualties.
According to officials and Taliban sources, a prominent Taliban cleric was murdered last Thursday in Kabul by a one-legged suicide bomber who had stuffed his artificial leg with explosives.
Sheikh Rahimullah Haqqani, an advocate for female education in Afghanistan, was reportedly killed in a seminary attack by an attacker who detonated explosives hidden in his plastic limb.
‘We were very saddened to learn that a respected cleric (Sheikh Rahimullah Haqqani) was martyred in a cowardly attack by enemies,’ said Bilal Karimi, a Taliban administration spokesperson.
It was unclear who was behind the blast, but four Taliban sources told Reuters that the attacker had previously lost a leg and had hidden the explosives in a plastic artificial leg.
The BBC reported the Islamic State (IS) group, which has targeted the cleric in the past, took responsibility for the attack, adding that it had happened inside his office.
One senior Taliban official of the interior ministry, referring to the group’s name for its administration, said of the attack: ‘We are investigating who this … person was and who had brought him to this important place to enter the personal office of Sheikh Rahimullah Haqqani.
‘It’s a very huge loss for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.’
Sheikh Haqqani was an outspoken critic of the jihadist militant group Islamic State Kohrasan Province (IS-K), a regional branch of IS that operates in Afghanistan.
On Saturday last week, a year on from seizing control in Afghanistan, Taliban fighters rode pedalos with their families and celebrated in the street to mark the anniversary.
Photographs show them gathered on boats at Band-e-Amir National Park, some holding weapons, smiling and chatting amongst themselves at the lake, which has been dubbed “Afghanistan’s Grand Canyon” and attracts thousands of tourists each year.
Many restrictions, particularly on women, have been reintroduced in the last year to conform to the Taliban movement’s vision of Islam.
Tens of thousands of girls have been barred from attending secondary school, and many women have been barred from returning to government jobs.
Women are also prohibited from traveling alone on long journeys and are only permitted to visit public gardens and parks in the capital on days when men are not present.