Blast at Shiite Mosque in Afghanistan Kills DozensBlast at Shiite Mosque in Afghanistan Kills Dozens

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But the Islamic State frequently targets Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan, focusing on the Hazara ethnic minority.


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KABUL, Afghanistan — A blast at a mosque during Friday Prayer killed dozens of people in northern Afghanistan, according to officials, the latest reminder of the precarious security situation across the country after the Taliban’s recent takeover.

Witness accounts described a powerful explosion with many casualties. Matullah Rohani, a Taliban official in Kunduz, told local media that at least 43 people were killed by the attack and more than 140 were injured.

A local Shiite community leader put the death toll much higher. Sayed Ahmad Shah Hashemi, who represents Kunduz Province’s Shiite population, told The New York Times that more than 70 people were killed in the attack.

“This deadly incident has caused trauma among Shiite and other sectors of the society,” Mr. Hashemi said.

It was the deadliest attack in Afghanistan since a suicide bombing outside the international airport in Kabul, the country’s capital, on Aug. 26 killed about 170 civilians and 13 U.S. troops.

There was no immediate claim of responsibly for the attack on the Shiite mosque in Kunduz Province. But it came days after an attack by the Islamic State outside a mosque in Kabul, the capital, which killed several people. The group had also claimed responsibility for the devastating airport attack in August.

The Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K, a Sunni extremist group, has long targeted Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan, focusing almost exclusively on the Hazara ethnic minority, which is heavily Shiite.

The newly installed Taliban government, having overthrown the country’s Western-backed administration in August, is wrestling with a collapsing economy as foreign funding remains largely frozen and with invigorated Islamic State fighters who have conducted guerrilla-style attacks and bombings across parts of the country.

In the months before American forces withdrew, some 8,000 to 10,000 jihadi fighters from Central Asia, the North Caucasus region of Russia, Pakistan and the Xinjiang region in western China poured into Afghanistan, a United Nations report concluded in June. Most are associated with the Taliban or Al Qaeda, which are closely linked, but others are allied with the Islamic State.

As Taliban officials shift from leading an insurgency to forming a functioning state, providing security to a population ravaged by more than 40 years of war has been their benchmark. But Islamic State attacks have undercut the Taliban’s promises, leading to swift and violent retribution against the terrorist group.

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