An explosion ripped through a mosque during Friday prayers in northern Afghanistan, killing 33 people and injuring 43 others, a Taliban spokesman said, just a day after the Islamic State group claimed two separate deadly attacks.
Since Taliban fighters took control of Afghanistan last year after ousting the US-backed government, the number of bombings has fallen, but jihadist and Sunni IS has continued to strike against targets it considers heretical.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted that children were among the 33 killed in the explosion at a mosque in northern Kunduz province.
“We condemn this crime… and extend our deepest condolences to the bereaved families,” he said.
Images posted to social media that could not be immediately verified showed holes blown through the walls of the Mawlavi Sikandar Mosque, popular with Sufis, north of Kunduz city.
Jihadist groups such as IS deeply hate Sufis they consider heretical and accuse them of polytheism – the greatest sin in Islam – for seeking the intercession of dead saints.
“The sight of the mosque was horrific. All who worshiped in the mosque were injured or killed,” said Mohammad Esah, who has a shop near the mosque.
A nurse at a nearby district hospital told AFP by phone that between 30 and 40 victims had been killed by the blast.
It comes a day after the Islamic State group claimed a bomb attack on a Shia mosque in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif that killed at least 12 worshipers and injured 58.
They also claimed a separate attack in the city of Kunduz on Thursday that killed four people and injured 18.
No group on Tuesday claimed two more explosions at a boys’ school in a Shia neighborhood of Kabul, killing six and injuring more than 25.
Shia Afghans, who mainly come from the Hazara community that make up between 10 and 20 percent of Afghanistan’s 38 million population, have long been targeted by IS, which considers them heretics.
Earlier on Friday, Taliban authorities said they had arrested the IS “brain” of Thursday’s bombing of the mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif.
Taliban officials insist their forces have defeated IS, but analysts say the jihadist group is a major security challenge.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)