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At least 62 dead as bomb blast targets mosque in Kandahar

At least 62 people were killed and 68 are said to be injured in Afghanistan’s Kandahar after a bomb blast ripped through a mosque in the city on Friday, the official news agency Bakhtar reported.

According to a health official, the casualty toll is likely to rise.

The bomb blast occurred during Friday prayers.

The blast marked the second massive attack in a week targeting worshippers.

Taking to Twitter, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid condemned the attack and wrote: “The Islamic Emirate condemns the barbaric attack on civilians in a mosque in Kandahar. We have directed the security forces to find the perpetrators of such grave crimes as soon as possible and bring them to justice.”

“The Islamic Emirate also extends its deepest condolences to the families of the victims,” he added.

A local reporter in Kandahar told Reuters that eyewitnesses had described three suicide attackers, one of whom blew himself up at the entrance to the mosque with the two others detonating their devices inside the building.

“The situation is very bad. Mirwais hospital is messaging and calling on young people to give blood,” he said, referring to a local hospital where dead and injured had been taken.

Photographs and mobile phone footage posted by journalists on social media showed many people apparently dead or seriously wounded on the bloody floor of the Imam Bargah mosque.

A health official gave figures of 33 dead and 73 wounded and said the final total could be higher. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Interior ministry spokesman Qari Saeed Khosti of the ruling Taliban movement said authorities were collecting details.

The blast took place just days after an attack claimed by Daesh militants, which killed scores of Shia worshippers at a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz. The full death toll from that attack has been estimated as high as 80.

The Taliban have pledged to protect all ethnic and sectarian groups since sweeping into power in August as US forces withdrew.

The embassy of Iran, Afghanistan’s neighbour and the region’s largest Shia power, condemned the attack.

“We hope Taliban leaders take decisive action against these wicked terrorist incidents,” it said in a tweet.

Taliban special forces arrived to secure the site and an appeal went out to residents to donate blood for the wounded.

The blast, coming so soon after the Kunduz attack, underlined the increasingly uncertain security in Afghanistan as the Taliban grapple with an escalating economic and humanitarian crisis that threatens millions with hunger.

The local affiliate of Daesh, known as Daesh Khorasan after an ancient name for the region covering Afghanistan, has stepped up attacks following the Taliban victory over the Western-backed government in Kabul in August.

Taliban officials have played down the threat from Daesh and dismissed suggestions they may accept US help to fight the group. But the repeated attacks have tarnished their claim to have brought peace to Afghanistan after four decades of war.

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