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Bombing outside Kabul main mosque leaves at least 2 dead, Taliban says

Bombing outside Kabul main mosque leaves at least 2 dead, Taliban says
MONDAY, October 04, 2021

KABUL - A bombing outside Kabul main mosque left at least two Afghan civilians dead and others wounded on Sunday, the Taliban said, the latest in a series of blasts apparently intended to undermine the militants ability to bring security to the capital and other cities.

The explosion at Eid Gah Mosque was the first major attack in Kabul since the Islamic State targeted the international airport in late August as thousands attempted to escape the country. As of Sunday night, there had been no official claim of responsibility.

Qari Muhammad Saeed Khosti, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said two people died in the blast but cautioned that the number could rise. "I don't have an exact number of casualties," Khosti said. "Our investigations are underway."

A hospital in Kabul said in a tweet that it took in four wounded people in Sunday's blast. Reports on social media indicated that the explosion killed as many as 12 people and injured more than 30.

Bilal Karimi, deputy spokesman for the Taliban, denied the reports of heavy casualties. He said there were no Taliban fighters among the casualties. Taliban security units captured three suspects, he said, and investigations were underway. "Usually Daesh terrorists are behind such attacks, but it is too early to say anything that confirms who was behind the bombing," Karimi said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

The Taliban is battling the Islamic State-Khorasan, or ISIS-K, the Afghan branch of the network that's based in Syria and Iraq, in several areas of the country. The airport attack in late August, which included two suicide bombings, killed 13 U.S. service members and some 170 Afghan civilians at the chaotic end of the U.S. withdrawal of troops after two decades in Afghanistan.

ISIS-K, which opposes the Taliban, has in recent weeks claimed responsibility for a series of blasts in eastern Afghanistan. The blasts were mostly around the city of Jalalabad, capital of the eastern province of Nangahar and known as an ISIS-K stronghold. While both are Islamist groups, ISIS-K accuses the Taliban of not being extreme enough.

The Taliban is also reportedly facing divisions within its own ranks over who should receive the most credit for defeating the United States and how power should be shared. It has officially denied reports of infighting between rival factions.

The explosion outside the gate of the mosque, on a highway between Kabul and Logar province, occurred as Taliban members and other people had gathered at a memorial to honor the mother of Zabihullah Mujahid, acting deputy information minister and a key spokesman.

"We are investigating as to how it happened and who did it," said Karimi.

Separately, Twitter on Sunday temporarily suspended the accounts of both Mujahid and Karimi without providing a specific reason. Mujahid has slightly more than 400,000 followers. Karimi has roughly 66,000 followers.