Afghan official: Death toll from mosque attack climbs to 37

US soldier, 2 Afghan troops killed in Afghanistan
Posted at 7:13 AM, Oct 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-15 08:25:51-04

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A hospital official says the death toll from a bombing at a Shiite mosque in southern Afghanistan has climbed to 37, with more than 70 people wounded.

Suicide bombers attacked the mosque as hundreds had gathered for Friday prayers. The attack came a week after an Islamic State affiliate carried out a similar attack in northern Afghanistan that killed 46 people.

The extremist group is more radical than the ruling Taliban and has fought them on a number of occasions.

The official confirmed the casualty toll on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP's earlier story follows below.

Suicide bombers assaulted a Shiite mosque in southern Afghanistan that was packed with worshippers attending weekly Friday prayers, killing at least seven people and wounding more than a dozen, according to a hospital official and an eyewitness.

The attack on the Imam Barga mosque came a week after a bombing claimed by a local Islamic State affiliate killed 46 people at a Shiite mosque in northern Afghanistan.

Murtaza, an eye-witness who like many Afghans goes by one name, said four suicide bombers attacked the mosque. Two detonated their payloads at a security gate, allowing the other two to run inside and strike the congregation of worshippers.

Speaking to The Associated Press by phone, he said Friday prayers are typically attended by around 500 people.

Video footage from the scene showed bodies scattered across blood-stained carpets, with survivors walking around in a daze or crying out in anguish.

The extremist group, which is opposed to the ruling Taliban, views Shiite Muslims as apostates deserving of death. IS has claimed a number of deadly bombings across the country since the Taliban seized power in August amid the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The group has also targeted Taliban fighters in smaller attacks.

Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi confirmed the explosion and said an investigation was underway, without providing further details.

An official in the provincial hospital said the facility received seven dead bodies and 13 wounded, adding that the death toll would likely rise. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media.

The Taliban have pledged to restore peace and security after decades of war. Both the Taliban and IS adhere to a rigid interpretation of Islamic law, but IS is far more radical, viewing itself as part of a worldwide Islamic caliphate that includes better-known branches in Iraq and Syria.

The Taliban and IS are Sunni Muslims, but they are bitterly split by ideology and have fought each other on numerous occasions.

That Taliban have pledged to protect Afghanistan's Shiite minority, which suffered persecution during the last period of Taliban rule, in the 1990s.