Taliban authorities in Afghanistan said Thursday that the death toll from an overnight bomb blast inside a mosque in Kabul had risen to at least 21.
Khalid Zadran, a police spokesman in the Afghan capital, told VOA that at least 33 worshipers also were wounded.
Witnesses and police said the powerful blast ripped through the Siddiquiya Mosque in the city’s northern Kher Khanna neighborhood during evening prayers on Wednesday.
Prayer leader Amir Mohammad Kabuli, a renowned Afghan scholar and preacher of Sufi Islam, was said to be among the dead.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) called on the Taliban authorities to take concrete steps to prevent all forms of terrorism in the country and bring those behind such attacks to justice.
“We deplore yesterday’s attack in a Kabul Mosque, the latest in a disturbing series of bombings which have killed & injured more than 250 people in recent weeks, the highest monthly number of civilian casualties over the last year,” UNAMA said on Twitter Thursday.
The Italian-run Emergency7 charity hospital in Kabul said in a statement that of the 27 victims brought to the facility from the blast site, two were dead and a third patient died in the emergency room. It said five children, including a 7-year-old, were among the injured.
The ruling Taliban’s chief spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, condemned the deadly attack, saying the “perpetrators of such crimes will soon be brought to justice and will be punished.”
No one immediately took responsibly for the attack. Suspicions fell on the self-proclaimed Islamic State terrorist group, however, which condemns Muslims practicing Sufism as polytheists.
The Islamic State Khorasan Province, or ISIS-K, the Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State group, has stepped up attacks in Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power a year ago. The terror outfit has carried out bomb attacks against Taliban fighters and civilians, particularly minority Afghan Shiite Muslims that it denounces as apostates.
Last week, an Islamic State group suicide bomber killed a prominent and highly respected Taliban scholar inside his Islamic seminary, or madrasa, in Kabul.
The Taliban repeatedly have claimed to have degraded ISIS-K in military operations. Critics question those claims, though, in the wake of recent high-profile attacks in Kabul and deadly bombings elsewhere in Afghanistan.