At least five civilians have been killed in an explosion outside the Eid Gah Mosque in the Afghan capital, Kabul, according to a Taliban interior ministry spokesman.
Four other people were wounded in Sunday’s attack that targeted a memorial service being held for the mother of Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
Sunday’s attack is the first to target the capital since late August when an Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K) suicide bomber targeted American evacuation efforts outside Kabul’s international airport. The blast killed 169 Afghans and 13 US service members and was one of the deadliest attacks in the country in years.
An Italian-funded emergency hospital in Kabul tweeted it had received four people wounded in the blast.
“We received four patients, three of them had shrapnel injuries while one had a bullet wound,” Marco Puntin, country director in Afghanistan for Emergency, told Al Jazeera.
Puntin said he heard gunshots shortly after the blast, adding that all four patients were alive and in stable conditions.
Taliban fighters were not harmed in the attack, Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi told The Associated Press news agency. Those killed in the attack were civilians outside the mosque gate.
“I heard the sound of an explosion near the Eid Gah Mosque followed by gun firing,” Abdullah, a nearby shopkeeper, told the AFP news agency, adding that the Taliban blocked the road shortly before the blast struck.
Ambulances carrying the wounded were seen rushing towards Kabul’s Emergency Hospital in the Shahr-e-Naw area.
Three suspects were arrested following Sunday’s explosion, said Karimi, a Taliban spokesman.
The area around the mosque was cordoned off by the Taliban, who maintained a heavy security presence. Later in the afternoon, the site was cleaned.
The only sign of the blast was slight damage to the ornamental arch by the entrance gate.
No immediate claim of responsibility
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
However, since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in mid-August, attacks by ISIL (ISIS)-affiliated fighters against them have increased. The rise has raised the possibility of a wider conflict between the two groups.
Reporting from Kabul, Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid said: “This is a big dent in Taliban’s claim that this country is seeing unprecedented peace and security.”
“This attack is certainly going to send shockwaves across Afghanistan as people ask how secure it really is,” he added.
The explosion underscored the growing challenges the Taliban faces just weeks after they took control of Afghanistan in a blitz campaign, culminating in their takeover of Kabul on August 15.
During the 20-year US occupation of Afghanistan, the Taliban had frequently carried out bombing and shooting attacks, but are now faced with trying to contain rival armed groups using the same methods.
The growing security challenges come at a time of an economic meltdown, as the Taliban struggles to run the country without the massive foreign aid given to the US-backed government they toppled.
ISKP has stepped up attacks against the Taliban since the mid-August takeover. It maintains a strong presence in the eastern province of Nangarhar, where it has claimed responsibility for several killings in the provincial capital of Jalalabad.
Attacks in Kabul have so far been rare, but in recent weeks ISKP has shown signs it is expanding its footprint beyond the east and closer towards the capital.
On Friday, Taliban fighters raided a hideout belonging to an ISIL affiliate just north of Kabul in Parwan province. The raid came after an ISKP roadside bomb wounded four Taliban fighters in the area.